Monday, August 27, 2018

A Response to the Recent Scandals - To Whom Shall We Go?

Sermon On the Abuse Scandal 
21st Sunday of Ordinary Time B, August 26th, 2018
Fr. Paul D. Williams, Jr., pastor, Saint Joseph's, Dalton GA

Last week, my nephew called me. He's a journalist for an online publication and we're very proud of him. He wanted to talk with me about the latest abuse scandals in the Church: the resignation of Cardinal McCarrick after the revelations that he abused boys and young seminarians, and then the Grand Jury report from the Dioceses in Pennsylvania that documented not only horrific accusations of priests abusing minors but also the cover-up by Bishops and leaders in the Church - over seven decades. In light of that, he asked me how I was doing, if I was dispirited, traumatized, or ashamed?

I told him “no”. Why? Because we priests went through that in 2002 when the Scandal first became nationwide and worldwide, starting in Boston. It was then that we first had to deal with the trauma and shame of the Scandal – that there were predators in the priesthood, and many bishops over many decades covered up for it, shuffled them around, treated the victims shamefully, and generally allowed a culture where this happened. In the 16 years since, I've reached a certain serenity about it, knowing there are some things I cannot change, but changing what I can and being faithful to my calling.

After 2002, the Bishops finally began to address the problem with what was called “the Dallas Charter”, which was basically a “zero tolerance” policy. All throughout the US, including here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, new policies were implemented, including the training and vetting of all priests, leaders, and ministers in the Church. Training about awareness, prevention, and reporting of child abuse by anyone – we are mandated reporters here and I have on occasion had to call civil authorities when abuse in our community has been revealed. Some of you may have even participated in the VIRTUS program which we implement here in the parish.  All of this was to create a "Safe Environment", which I believe we have here in our community.

It also changed the way we priests and the Church at large ministers. Trust is gone, so the days of - camping trips, altar server outings, priests hanging out with families in their home, or kids dropping by the rectory to visit - are over. All offices and classrooms have windows on the doors, confessions are held in an open, visible place, priests won't meet with you privately unless the secretary is in the other room, and certainly not after office hours. Priests have become less a beloved member of the family that you can trust implicitly and more of a professional, with boundaries. That's the state of the Church nowadays, and I accept that.

Since 2002, a large number of priests have been removed for or convicted of past abuse, and in general, the system as it is today protects the vulnerable, especially minors. The Pennsylvania report revealed that 93% of abusive priests were ordained before 1985. It also confirmed something we already knew: that 80% of the victims were teenage boys, meaning it was not “pedophilia” as psychologists define it (which is abuse of prepubescent children), but “ephebophila” or to use an old word, “pederasty”. In other words, the vast majority of abuse came from homosexual priests fixated on youth, namely teenage boys.

So what is different about these new scandals? I really feel that “the other shoe has dropped”, something that really should have happened in 2002. The key thing that the Cardinal McCarrick affair and Pennsylvania report have revealed is this: that many of the bishops and leaders who allowed such horrific things to happen are still in power, some were even promoted and worked their way up in the hierarchy, all the while knowing what they had done, or in the case of McCarrick, were still doing.

So, in the past couple of months, we have heard a lot of statements from our bishops about their sorrow and shame. But, as C.S. Lewis once said, "a long face is not a moral disinfectant." Sorrow needs to be followed by action.

As they say, it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. And when the crime is so horrific, the cover-up is all the more atrocious. That was true in 2002 as it is today. We know that no sector of society is exempt from having abusers their midst (schools, colleges, sports programs, Boy Scouts, Hollywood, even families), and it appears that cover-ups and shuffling of abusers happens in those other sectors as well.

But this is what I shared with Archbishop Gregory a few days ago: “The Church should be the one place where those enablers (of abuse) are held accountable. As a writer in the National Review recently said, "we don't need new polices, we need better men." And if that means some heads need to roll, así sea, so be it.”

My suggestion to Archbishop Gregory was what I like to call the “Alessandro Serenelli” option. He was the young man who in a passion of anger and lust killed St. Maria Goretti. He was convicted and sent to prison and remained a bitter and angry man until she appeared to him in a dream. It changed him. He repented and showed his remorse by his behavior, and after an early release from prison, he spent the rest of his life as a gardener in a monastery.

So my suggestion is simple: those guilty enablers of abuse in the Church need to be punished (civilly, canonically, or simply shamed into resigning) and then serve the rest of their lives as gardeners in a monastery - never to be heard or seen again in the Church. Let God figure out if their "long faces" are sincere.

One of the difficulties the bishops have faced is the question of priest abusers who are now deceased. I do know that here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, when the Archbishop hears of such abuse even after years or decades, he immediately responds to help the victim survivor, sometimes personally. The Archdiocese, within the Office of Child and Youth Protection, has a Victim Assistance Program and a 24-hour hotline (1-888-437-0764). I have personally seen victims who have been treated with respect, compassion, and most importantly, given the assistance they needed to heal from past abuse. But there may be more victims out there, and they need to know that not only will they be heard, they will be helped.

Knowing that, I suggested to the Archbishop this week that we name a deceased priest who has been credibly accused of abuse from decades ago. He agreed in this particular case. From 1975-1981, Fr. J. Douglas Edwards served as pastor here at St. Joseph's in Dalton. He had also previously served at my dad's home parish of OLPH in Carrollton in the early Seventies, where I served as pastor from 2002-2009. Fr. Edwards has been associated with claims of abuse that were brought to the attention of the Archdiocese, some within the last 10 years. I personally know two of the victims who have made those claims, and as I followed Fr. Edwards as pastor by a few decades, I have seen how the damage caused by abuse often takes many years to surface. Though nothing can change what happened, healing, even after many years, is possible. I want to personally assure you that I am here, the Archbishop is here, the Archdiocese of Atlanta is here, to listen to and respond to the needs of anyone who has been harmed by past abuse.

This is difficult, no doubt. Some people have asked me, and I have asked myself, why would I want to be associated with a profession, the priesthood, that has become synonymous with child abuse in the popular culture? One reason and one reason only: the Eucharist. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” I fell in love with the Lord in the Eucharist, and he called me to be a priest. And when he calls, how could I say no? He makes it clear, as we read last week, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” Despite the failings of many bishops, priests, and leaders in the Church, nothing can take away that great gift. Jesus remains in his Church, often suffering with its members, so that after all the trials and tribulations of this life, he might give us eternal life.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jesus Defends Marriage

Homily, 13th Sunday Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Fr. Paul D. Williams, Jr., pastor, Saint Joseph's, Dalton GA

People of good will all over the country are shocked and saddened by this week's Supreme Court decision that failed to uphold marriage as an institution between one man and one woman. Some perhaps feel like James and John in the Gospel today, when the Samaritan village would not welcome Jesus, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" But "Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village." So it is not ours to react with despair or predictions of doom or desires for punishment, but to soberly continue onwards, preaching the Good News, and in this time in particular, the Good News about Marriage.

Some will say that Jesus said nothing about this issue, so therefore it must be permitted. Well, what exactly did Jesus teach about marriage? In Matthew 19 we read that some Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" Jesus answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." 

So, what Jesus says is that Marriage, from the very beginning of Creation was willed by God to be the union of a man and a woman. And that this union was so complete, that "the two shall become one flesh", both literally and spiritually. They become one spiritually, for the mutual good of the spouses, and their two bodies bring about one flesh in the procreation and raising of their children.

 But can that change, as societies grow, become more diverse and tolerant? The Pharisees thought that too. They wanted to redefine marriage, so they say to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?" Jesus responds, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another, commits adultery."

He doubles-down on the definition of marriage, restating that it was this way from the beginning, and moreover, that attempts to redefine it or live it differently are sinful.

To be clear, Jesus teaches that the only authentically human, non-sinful expression of human sexuality is within the context of a faithful, lifelong union of one man and one woman that is open to life. That's why he does not spend much time addressing the myriad ways in which sexuality is misused, including that addressed by the Supreme Court's decision this week. As G.K. Chesterton once wrote, (Orthodoxy, p. 68): "It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands."

And as if to double-down on the procreative aspect of marriage, right after reaffirming this constant teaching on marriage, what did Jesus do? He blessed the children that were brought to him, the fruit of marriage, the one-flesh that results from the union of one man and one woman: "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

So marriage is procreative both in the literal and spiritual sense. As we pray in the Marriage Rite, "Lord, you have forged the covenant of marriage as a sweet yoke of harmony and an unbreakable bond of peace, so that the chaste and fruitful love of Holy Matrimony may serve to increase the children you adopt as your own. By your providence and grace, O Lord, you accomplish the wonder of this two-fold design: that, while the birth of children brings beauty to the world, their rebirth in Baptism gives increase to your Church."

That's what our Lord taught about marriage. And that's what his apostles taught and lived, as seen by their lives. Jesus spoke of himself as the Bridegroom and the Church as his Bride. He uses this image because marriage is sacred, and the people would have understood all the more profoundly the union of God and his People that Jesus came to accomplish. Since salvation would be spousal, it would be hard for people to perceive what their redemption would mean if their understanding and practice of human marriage were messed up.

And his cousin John the Baptist, the greatest prophet of the Old and New Testament before Christ, was likewise firm and clear in saying that we cannot redefine marriage to make it whatever we please. He was thrown into prison and eventually decapitated because he had the courage repeatedly to tell King Herod - who had taken his brother Philip's wife Herodias to be his own - "It is not lawful for you to have her". He was a martyr for the truth about marriage, which makes him a particular patron for our times.

And in history, we see the same. St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, were both arrested for treason and martyred because of their opposition to King Henry VIII's desire to divorce Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn and refusing to take the oath of supremacy of the king over the church. St. John Fisher was a bishop and all the other bishops of England apostatized and went along with the King, which of course, led to the break of the Church of England from Rome. And St. Thomas More would spend time imprisoned in the London Tower as his family and friends encouraged him to save his life by saying the words only of the oath only, not really meaning it. Neither balked. St. John Fisher declared that like St. John the Baptist, he was ready to die on behalf of the indissolubility of marriage, and both Saints were beheaded.

Many, it seems, based on a misunderstanding of freedom, have forgotten the witness of our Lord and his Saints and even applaud how our modern culture and the Courts have redefined marriage. They forget the words of Saint Paul today, "For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery... For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh... live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want."

Of course, we cannot ignore the witness of countless heroic couples who have lived the dignity and truth of Christian marriage throughout the centuries, not needing to be told by the government how they should define this sacred union.

So how should Catholics respond to this? The USCCB issued this statement: “Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act... The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage... The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage...

Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.

Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it.

... In the face of the customs and laws of his time, Jesus taught an unpopular truth that everyone could understand. The truth of marriage endures, and we will continue to boldly proclaim it with confidence and charity.

Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life.”

In today's Gospel, Jesus says to us, "Follow me." It is not enough to say, "Lord, I will follow you wherever you go" and then to fear the consequences and hardship that decision, to be overwhelmed by desires of the flesh, or to look back to a worldly way of life. Instead, this decision is costly and difficult, more and more so in this modern world. It demands of us a respect if not a desire for martyrdom, as Pope Pius XI said on the canonization of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, "If all of us are not called to shed our blood for the defense of the holy laws of God, all none the less... with Christian mortification of their bodies, with energetic striving after virtue, “must be martyrs of desire, in order to share with the martyrs their celestial reward.”

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Good Friday in Pictures

My parish offers a living Stations of the Cross on Good Friday each year. 

Here are my photos from the 2013 presentation of the Via Crucis. - Fr. Paul Williams

Click on this link to see the entire gallery on our Facebook page:

Good Friday at Saint Joseph's Church, Dalton, Georgia

Saturday, January 19, 2013

América, defiende la vida!

Homilía Domingo Ordinario 2 C
Padre Paul D. Williams, Jr., párroco San José, Dalton, GA
(Gracias a "Priests for Life" por los recursos.)

Las bodas de Caná no se trata sólo de que Jesús ayuda a una pareja en su necesidad. Se trata de su boda con nosotros, cumpliendo la profecía de Isaías en la primera lectura: "Se casará contigo tu constructor." Jesús, al revelar su gloria públicamente de esta manera y al creer de sus discípulos en él, inaugura el matrimonio que se consumó en la Cruz. El feroz amor que Dios tiene para la vida humana no puede ser exagerado. El agua que se convierte en vino simboliza el hecho de que Jesucristo eleva la vida humana y el amor humano a un nuevo tipo de vida y amor: lo que es compartido dentro de la vida de la Trinidad. Tenemos vida humana; ahora en Cristo somos llamados a participar de la vida divina. Experimentamos el amor humano; ahora en Cristo somos llamados a experimentar el amor divino. Todo está al servicio de la vida humana, llamado al matrimonio divino.

Queridos hermanos y hermanas, estamos aquí en esta misa para adorar a Dios, precisamente porque creemos en Dios, reconocemos a Cristo como El Señor, y adoramos al Espíritu Santo. Dios, desde el principio de las Sagradas Escrituras hasta el final, es el Dios de la vida. El habla de si mismo como el Dios vivo. El Señor Jesucristo dijo "Yo soy la Vida". El Espíritu Santo, según afirmamos en el Credo todos los domingos, es El Señor y Dador de Vida. Por ende, nosotros el pueblo del Padre, el Hijo, y el Espíritu Santo, somos por ese mismo hecho, gente de vida.

El próximo martes, 22 de enero, estaremos conmemorando 40 años de la fecha in-famosa de la decisión de Roe v. Wade, en la cual la mayoría de los miembros de la Corte Suprema de Justicia de los Estados Unidos desconocieron el ser persona de los seres humanos no nacidos, despenalizando el aborto durante los nueve meses del embarazo, iniciando así, la violación del primero derecho humano de todos: el derecho a la Vida.

Estar con Cristo es estar por la vida y estar por la vida significa que estamos en contra de cualquier cosa que destruya la vida. No hay nada en nuestra sociedad que destruya más a la vida humana que al aborto – ni el crimen, ni las enfermedades, ni los desastres naturales, ni las guerras. En este país, cada veintiséis segundos se comete un aborto, tres mil trescientos abortos diarios.

La ironía de todo esto es que hay gente que promueve esta actividad bajo el lema "libertad de opción", "pro-opción". Pero las mujeres que cometen abortos, no lo hacen por la libertad de opción; lo hacen porque sienten que no tienen libertad y no tienen otra opción. Ellas se sienten atrapadas, abandonadas, desesperadas, con miedo y lamentablemente sienten que no hay nadie a quien puedan ir a menos que sea donde un abortista.
Este día les traigo buenas noticias. La Iglesia y el movimiento pro-vida les queremos decir que hay gente lista para ayudarles, que hay mejores opciones que el aborto. Las mujeres de nuestro país merecen mejores opciones de las que otros les presentan! Que nadie las haga sentir como que la única opción que tienen para solucionar su problema es destruyendo la vida de sus bebés. Hay mejores maneras de resolver los problemas que tenga un individuo y los de toda una nación.

Lo triste es que muchas de las personas que necesitan este tipo de ayuda no saben que la tienen disponible. Pero es ahí donde podemos ayudar. Cada uno de nosotros puede salvar la vida de otro llevándoles a todos la buena noticia de que hay otras opciones al aborto. Hoy yo les doy un camino sencillo para hacerlo. Cuando salgan de esta iglesia, he preparado información que se llaman "Usted puede salvar una vida hoy." Si alguien necesita ayuda y no la recibe, quiero personalmente enterarme de esto.

Hay personas a las cuales solo ustedes pueden alcanzar, abortos que solo ustedes pueden detener, muchas vidas que solo ustedes pueden salvar. Hay niños vivos hoy día, porque gente como ustedes en iglesias como ésta, alrededor de todo el país, cuando escucharon de alguna mujer embarazada que tenía necesidades, le hablaron y le dijeron "no tengas un aborto...hay mejores opciones disponibles!"

Mi padrasto trabaja en varias clínicas pro-vida en el norte de Georgia. Él es un operador de máquinas de ultrasonido, para ver los bebés en el vientre. Él ha salvado más de siete mil niños en estos años. Nadie puede ver un bebé en el vientre y decir que no es una vida humana. Y las clínicas pro-vida ofrecen muchos servicios para las mamás y sus bebés.

En la semana pasada, bauticé dos párvulos nacidos prematuramente. Una niña, un niño. La niña tenía seis meses, y el niño veintidós semanas. Yo los sostuve en mis manos. Tan precioso y hermoso. Nadie puede sostener a un niño en sus manos y decir que no es una vida humana. No. Dios nos regala con niños y los niños en el vientre son iguales con sus niños aquí hoy.

Y no solo tratamos de alcanzar a los que sienten la tentación de tener un aborto, también queremos hablarle a todos aquellos que ya han tenido abortos. A ellos les decimos, "las puertas de la iglesia están abiertas". No rechazaremos ni condenaremos a nadie. Ofrecemos el regreso a la paz, a la misericordia y al perdón de Cristo. Cuando ella deja el pecado, ella recibe de nuevo la paz de Cristo. No se preocupen. Estamos de su lado.

Ser pro-vida significa ser pro-mujer. No significa que amamos a los niños y nos olvidamos de sus madres. Lo que significa es muy sencillo: ¿porqué no podemos amarlos a los dos? ¿porqué no podemos protegerlos a los dos? ¿ porqué no podemos acogerlos y proveer por los dos? podemos y lo haremos.

Y que nadie los engañe con el lema de "pro–opción" suena bien pero si no se habla de lo que se está eligiendo, no se ha dicho verdaderamente nada. ¿Es una decisión particular correcta o equivocada? ¿buena o mala? ¿debería ser permitida o prohibida? ¿acaso no depende de qué es lo que se está optando? ¿Tengo el derecho de ir afuera y golpear sus vehículos? Por supuesto que no, porque mis opciones terminan donde sus derechos comienzan.

Ahora ¿cuál es la opción en cuanto al aborto? algunas personas dicen que es optar por tener o no tener un bebé. Ciertamente la opción de si uno quiere ser mamá o papá es una opción muy propia, no es ni mía ni tampoco del gobierno, es de cada quien.

Pero ¿acaso no es ésa la gran diferencia entre optar por tener o no tener un hijo y matar o no matar a un hijo?. Cuando hablamos de abortos no hablamos si tal ves vengan niños al mundo, estamos hablando de que ya están en este mundo. La pregunta no es si debería traer un niño a este mundo, la pregunta es ¿puedo descartar a un niño?

Cuál es nuestra respuesta? Visito Florida cada año, y cerca de la playa hay un aviso que había sido colocado por las autoridades locales, diciendo: "no tocar las tortugas marinas ni sus huevos, son protegidos bajo las leyes locales, estatales y federales". Bueno, me alegra que las tortugas marinas sean protegidas, pero si en este país no tenemos el derecho de optar si destruir o no un huevo de una tortuga marina, ¿porqué entonces tenemos el derecho a destruir un bebé que no es un huevo pero una vida humana?

Queridos hermanos y hermanas, ¿qué es lo que nosotros, como pueblo de Dios y que decimos que creemos en el Señor de la Vida y decimos que creemos en Dios el creador de todas las cosas, hacemos para confrontar esta tragedia? les puedo decir esto, ya no podemos continuar en silencio, no podemos continuar diciendo que es problema de otros.

El Espíritu Santo viene y nos convierte en un solo cuerpo. De hecho en unos momentos diré las oraciones sobre el pan y el vino y le pediré al Espíritu Santo que descienda y que cambie el pan y el vino y los convierta en el cuerpo y la sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Después de la consagración, haré otra oración en la cual le pediré al Espíritu Santo que descienda sobre todos, esa oración dice: "Señor convierte a toda la gente en un solo cuerpo, un solo espíritu en Cristo" ¿qué quiere decir esto? Significa que tenemos la responsabilidad de uno por el otro, no porque elegimos pero por quien somos. Cristo nos ha hecho una sola familia, Cristo nos ha hecho un solo cuerpo, somos responsables los unos de los otros.

No tengamos miedo, que no nos sea indiferente. Ustedes amigos, saben que nuestra religión no es para que nos concentremos sólo en nosotros mismos y en nuestro mundo. Venimos a adorar a Cristo, pero después El nos envía a que vayamos a ese mundo, y que lo convirtamos en un mundo mucho mejor, que hagamos una diferencia. Esa es parte de la adoración a Cristo.

En el Evangelio, la Madre de Dios, nuestra Señora, María Santísima, nos dice, "Hagan lo que el les diga." Y que nos dice el Señor? "Dejen que los niños se acerquen a mí." Como nos dijo el Papa Juan Pablo, "América, defiende la vida!"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

La Fundación de Santo Toribio Romo, Chatsworth

Homilía - La Vida de Santo Toribio Romo y Nuestras Metas
Misa de Fundación, Fiesta de Cristo Rey, 25 Noviembre, 2012
Iglesia Católica de Santo Toribio Romo, Chatsworth, Georgia USA
Padre Paul D. Williams, Jr., párroco

Los testigos que le conocieron a Toribio Romo hablan de él dando una lista de cualidades y de virtudes que lo igualan a los demás mártires que la Iglesia ha engendrado en sus veinte siglos de historia: fuerte espíritu de caridad, pasión por la Iglesia, amor a la Eucaristía (sobre todo se le veía esto en su manera de celebrar la Misa) y a la Virgen de Guadalupe, amor a obreros y a los niños. Así mismo, destacó por su pobreza de vida y austeridad. Él era un sacerdote y se consagró a ejercer su ministerio espiritual en bien de todos.

Leyendo la historia de la vida de nuestro Patrón, estoy pensando en las virtudes de él que nos enseña sobre nuestra Misión de iglesia. La tarea, el deber, la lucha de nuestra nueva iglesia aquí en Chatsworth. Pienso que podemos resumirla en cinco temas: La familia, la evangelización, la justicia, la eucaristía, y la entrega.

La Familia Toribio Romo nació en el rancho de Santa Ana de Guadalupe, Jalostotitlán. Creció y se educó en una familia cristiana, en un pueblo sencillo y fervoroso en la fe. Desde niño Tori estuvo muy unido de modo especial a su hermana mayor María, “Quica”, quien hizo las veces de segunda madre y le inculcó un gran amor por la Santísima Virgen. También estuvo muy unido a Román, su hermano menor, quien también llegó al sacerdocio y vivió como él las penurias de la persecución contra la Iglesia y sus ministros.

En una ocasión, allá en Santa Ana de Guadalupe, `Quica´ y su hermana Hipólita, a quien cariñosamente decían `Pola´, se encontraban haciendo una alba debajo de un mezquite, para el Cantamisa del Padre Juan Pérez, quien iba a celebrar ahí. El pequeño Toribio, de cuatro o cinco años de edad, rondaba el lugar; llegándose a ellas tocó el alba y preguntó a Quica: -¿Qué están haciendo?... -Una alba para el padre. -`¿Algún día me pondré una de éstas?... Pola se volteó y le dijo: `No se hizo la miel para el hocico de los burros´. Quica, como reprendiendo a su hermana, respondió a Toribio: `Sí, no se hizo... pero tú te pondrás una de éstas´»... Estas palabras resultaron proféticas.

"La familia", dice Juan Pablo II, "es la primera y más importante escuela de amor... La grandeza y la responsabilidad de la familia están en ser la primera comunidad de vida y amor, el primer ambiente en donde el hombre puede aprender a amar y a sentirse amado, no sólo por otras personas, sino también y ante todo por Dios".

En la familia es donde se hace posible el amor, el amor sin condiciones; los padres que inician la familia con una promesa de amor quieren a sus hijos porque son sus hijos, no en razón de sus cualidades. Es en el seno familiar donde cultivamos lo humano del hombre, donde aprende el cultivo de las virtudes: el amor, la honradez, la generosidad, la responsabilidad, el amor al trabajo, la gratitud, etc. El amor de la familia debe trasmitirse a la sociedad.

Esta es la primera meta de nuestra iglesia: para formar familias buenas, familias santas, familias que siguen a Cristo, para transmitir al mundo este amor.

La Evangelización/Catequesis Y esta es nuestra segunda meta: la evangelización, transmitiendo al mundo el amor de Cristo.

Desde su ingreso al seminario, Toribio dedicaba todo el tiempo que le permitían sus labores de estudiante a la catequesis de los niños. Todos los domingos salía a los ranchos a dar doctrina a los niños y a los grandes... Como cura, se lanza con su obsesión de catequista, establece centros de instrucción religiosa en todas las manzanas del pueblo y en todos los ranchos de la parroquia, funda la Cruzada Eucarística de los niños, establece centros para obreros, del catecismo parroquial, abre una escuela para catequistas...

Empezando con el amor en la familia, continuamos en la educación de los niños, la catequesis en la fe. Formamos buenas catequistas para formar nuestros niños en la fe de Cristo. Y esta formación continua por toda la vida.

Y parte de la formación en la fe es la evangelización... para compartir nuestra fe con nuestros vecinos, nuestros compañeros de trabajo, los estudiantes en nuestras escuelas, y nuestros enemigos...

Como podemos evangelizar nuestros prójimos? Sencillo: invítalos. La fe es una invitación de Dios a compartir en su amor. La evangelización es el mismo.

La Justicia Nuestro patrón, Santo Romo, era muy ocupado con la justicia, las enseñanzas de la iglesia sobre los problemas sociales. Con otros seminaristas formaron la Asociación Católica de la Juventud Mexicana y se dedicaron a círculos de estudio y se dedicaron a los obreros, estableciendo escuelas nocturnas, estudiando la Enciclica Rerum Novarum de S.S. León XIII; y desde entonces mostró una sensibilidad especial por los problemas sociales y sindicales de los obreros y sus familias, cuya existencia transcurría entre la marginación y la pobreza.

A finales del siglo XIX, los obreros tenían que aguantar jornadas de 18 horas de trabajo intenso, salarios de hambre y miseria y unas condiciones inhumanas de vivienda. También era común la explotación a niños y mujeres en las fábricas. Esta situación tenía que cambiar. La Iglesia se puso de parte del trabajador con la carta del Papa León“Rerum Novarum”, en donde explicaba cómo estaba la situación obrera, y defendiendo la justicia y a los trabajadores. La solución que daba fue la caridad, pasaba por que el Estado, la Iglesia, el trabajador y el empresario tenían que trabajar juntos. “La Carta Magna del Trabajo” tuvo una gran influencia.

Defendiendo los pobres y los trabajadores causaba muchas problemas para Padre Tori, pero sequía luchando por la justicia. Fue muy difícil especialmente en el tiempo de persecución de la iglesia católica en Mexico en aquel tiempo.

El padre Toribio escribió en su diario: …"Pido a Dios verdadero mande que cambie este tiempo de persecución. Mira que ni la Misa podemos celebrar tus Cristos; sácanos de esta dura prueba, vivir los sacerdotes sin celebrar la Santa Misa… Sin embargo, qué dulce es ser perseguido por la justicia. Tormenta de duras persecuciones ha dejado Dios venir sobre mi alma pecadora. Bendito sea El..."

Se continua hoy en día la injusticia contra los pobres y los trabajadores, los niños y las mujeres, los bebés en el vientre, los ancianos, los inmigrantes... Nuestra tercer meta es para luchar por la justicia en el mundo de hoy, empezando en nuestra iglesia, comunidad, estado y país.

La Eucaristía Una mañana de Pascua a la edad de siete años, Toribio recibió por primera vez la Sagrada Comunión. El Sacerdote que le dio la Primera comunión, les decía a los niños “Este es, queridos niños, el día mas feliz de toda su vida”, por la noche, Toribio le decía a Maria su hermana: “Se esta acabando el día mas feliz de mi vida…” – No Toribio, este día el Niñito Jesus se entrego a ti, para toda la vida… pero el día que tu seas sacerdote, tu, te entregaras a El, para toda la eternidad…

Su gran amor a la Eucaristía le hacía repetir con frecuencia esta oración: "Señor, perdóname si soy atrevido, pero te ruego me concedas este favor: no me dejes ni un día de mi vida sin decir la Misa, sin abrazarte en la Comunión… dame mucha hambre de Ti, una sed de recibirte que me atormente todo el día hasta que no haya bebido de esa agua que brota hasta la Vida Eterna, de la roca bendita de tu costado herido. ¡Mi Buen Jesús!, yo te ruego me concedas morir sin dejar de decir Misa ni un solo día."

La iglesia nos enseña que “La Eucaristía es ‘fuente y cima de toda la vida cristiana’. ‘Los demás sacramentos están unidos a la Eucaristía y a ella se ordenan. La sagrada Eucaristía, en efecto, contiene todo el bien espiritual de la Iglesia, es decir, al propio Cristo, nuestra Pascua’. La Eucaristía significa y realiza la comunión de vida con Dios y la unidad del Pueblo de Dios, la Iglesia. En ella se encuentra Cristo, y Dios santifica al mundo. Finalmente, por la celebración eucarística nos unimos ya a la Liturgia del Cielo y anticipamos la vida eterna, cuando Dios será todo en todos.

En resumen, la Eucaristía es el compendio y la suma de nuestra fe. Así pues, nuestra cuatra meta es para ser un pueblo eucarístico, celebrando la misa con devoción, comulgando con la pureza del corazón.

La Entrega Fué la fiesta de Cristo Rey, 1927, y el Padre Tori fue celebrando la misa en el Cerrito de Cristo Rey. Todo el pueblo se volcó sobre la montaña y casi de todos los ranchos acudieron a la fiesta. Más de quince mil asistieron a la Misa en la que estuvo expuesto el Santísimo y delante de El, se hizo juramento de defender la fe, aún a costa de la propia vida y la montaña se estremeció con los gritos de ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

El 12 de diciembre de 1927, celebró la Misa de primera comunión de 20 niños. Con fervor extraordinario y, a la hora de impartir la Sagrada Comunión, dialogó con los niños para que reiteraran su fe y su amor a Jesucristo y pidieran por la paz de la Iglesia. Teniendo en sus manos temblorosas la sagrada hostia le dijo a Jesús: “¿Aceptarás mí sangre, Señor”? Por un instante no pudo continuar porque las lágrimas se lo impedían y cuando pudo pronunciar palabra repitió la frase: “¿Y aceptarás mi sangre Señor, que te ofrezco por la paz de la Iglesia?”.

El padre Toribio había ofrecido su sangre por la paz de la Iglesia y pronto el Señor aceptó el ofrecimiento. Sus enemigos lo buscaban con rabia y odio criminal. Los soldados lo descubrieron en su escondite el 25 de enero de 1928.

Uno de los soldados abrió la habitación donde estaba el Padre Toribio, y quitándole el brazo que le cubría la cara, gritó: “Sí, éste es el Cura, ¡mátenlo!”. En aquél momento despertó sorprendido el Padre Toribio y dijo: “Sí soy, pero no me maten…” Sin dejarlo terminar la frase, lo acribillaron en medio de insultos; el Padre Toribio, con pasos vacilantes, caminó hacia la puerta y una segunda descarga lo hizo caer. Su hermana Quica corrió hacia él y lo tomó entre sus brazos; con voz fuerte le dice: “Valor, Padre Toribio… ¡Jesús Misericordioso, recíbelo! ¡Viva Cristo Rey!”. Con una última mirada, el Padre Toribio se despidió de aquella hermana que le llevó al sacerdocio y al martirio.

Nuestra quinta meta es la entrega total de nuestro ser, ofreciendo nuestras vidas, nuestra iglesia, todos, al servicio al Señor, como nuestro Patrón, Santo Toribio.

Viva Cristo Rey!
Viva Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe!
Viva Santo Toribio Romo!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fame in Heaven

Homily, 29th Sunday Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Fr. Paul D. Williams, Jr., pastor, Saint Joseph's, Dalton GA

In his book, “The Great Divorce”, which explores in story-form the differences between heaven and hell, C.S. Lewis gives beautiful descriptions of heaven. The premise of the book is a man's journey towards heaven, on which he learns through various events what heaven is all about. Towards the end of the book, the man and his “Teacher”, a guide somewhat like a guardian angel, see a large procession coming towards them - what seemed like a river of dancing light. It turns out to be a procession of people, led first by angels who were dancing and scattering flowers. Then following were hundreds of young boys and girls singing songs that, the man describes, would bring eternal youth to the hearer if they could be heard on earth. Then the musicians and other people... and even animals - cats, dogs, horses and birds. And the whole procession is being offered in honor of one woman in the center of it all, whose beauty can’t be described in mere human words. The man immediately suspects that this must be the Virgin Mary and asks his guide, “Is it? ... Is it?” And his guide says, “No, not at all. It's someone ye'll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.” The man protests, “But she seems to be a person of particular importance.” “Ah, she is one of the great ones. Remember that fame in this country and fame on earth are two different things.” “Who are all these people?” “Those are members of her family - every person she met became part of her family through the abundance of life she had in Christ, and the love she had spread like the waves from a rock thrown in a pond - no one knows where it will end.”

St. Thérèse of Lisieux (October 1st), most commonly known as the “Little Flower”, is a “Doctor of the Church.” Though she wrote only one book, a memoir intended for her family and superiors, she is a master of spirituality of the Church.  She has a beautiful story to explain why she considered herself a "little flower" in the garden of the Lord. She writes that she found herself pondering one day how it was that “God has his preferences”, seemingly favoring one person over another - giving one person extraordinary gifts, another only painful sufferings, and still others no visible gifts at all.

Well, she explains it this way: “Jesus has been gracious enough to teach me a lesson about this mystery, simply by holding up to my eyes the book of nature. I realized, then, that all the flowers he has made are beautiful - the rose in its glory [and] the lily in its whiteness do not rob the tiny violet of its sweet smell, or the daisy of its charming simplicity. I saw that if all these lesser blooms wanted to be roses instead, nature would lose the gaiety of her spring-tide dress - there would be no little flowers to make a pattern over the countryside.” She goes on, “And so it is with the world of souls, which is the Lord's garden. He wanted to have great Saints, to be his lilies and roses, but he has made lesser Saints as well; and these lesser ones must be content to rank as daisies and violets, lying at his feet and giving pleasure to his eye like that.” She concludes, “Perfection consists simply in doing his will, and being just what he wants us to be.”

In today’s Gospel, James and John were seeking greatness and importance, “Lord, see to it that we sit, one at your right and the other at your left, when you come into your glory.” And Jesus gently reminds them that the only way to greatness is through service, which he showed through the Cross.

But what strikes me about what St. Therese said and what Jesus says in today’s Gospel is that he does want us to strive for greatness, not in the world’s eyes, but in heaven’s eyes. After all, he says, “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” And throughout the Gospels, Jesus speaks about the rewards that await us in heaven if we do his will on earth by giving of ourselves and serving others. At the end of the Beatitudes, he says, (Mt. 5: 12), “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” In the Sermon on the Mount he says, (Mt. 6:19), “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, but store up treasures in heaven.” And he says that when you fast, pray, and give alms, you should do so in secret, without drawing attention to yourself , “And your Father in Heaven who sees in secret will repay you.” In other words, what we do in this life matters. Our actions have eternal consequences. Jesus says that some will be called great and others called least in the kingdom. By our actions now, we determine our greatness in heaven.

The reason St. Therese is a doctor of the Church is that she taught how we can achieve this greatness even in the midst of our daily life. Her secret was that she learned how to do small acts with great love. When she was sick and having trouble walking, she would offer the pain for missionaries around the world. When she was not receiving any consolation in prayer, she would persevere despite the hardships. When she had reason to be annoyed by another nun, she would not be impatient but instead thank the Lord for another opportunity for mortification. If others thought ill of her, she rejoiced, knowing that if she deserved it, she would take it as correction, but if she was innocent, she would delight that she was sharing in Jesus’ suffering.

Now, this great love that she showed in small actions came from her docility to God’s will, but she was no weakling or pushover. She was very strong-willed, it’s just that her will was properly ordered towards the Lord. She had great confidence in God’s help. As the Letter to the Hebrews says, “let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor and to find help in the time of need.” There’s a delightful story about her trip to Rome, where along with hundreds of other pilgrims, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, she attended a papal audience. Most present were allowed to receive the Pope’s blessing and kiss his ring, but they were strictly forbidden to speak. But Therese got up her courage and when it was her turn, she said, “Most Holy Father, I have a great favor to ask you!” She had just turned fifteen and wanted to enter the Carmelite Convent, but she was too young. The Holy Father looked at her gently and told her, “Do whatever your superiors tell you.” But she didn’t give up, “Oh! Holy Father, if you say yes, everybody will agree!” And how could he not give in to such a beautiful child, so he said, “Go… go… You will enter if God wills it.”

And each of us can be filled with that great love and confidence, even in the midst of our daily life. Wherever we happen to find ourselves, we can serve the Lord, grow in holiness, and strive for sanctity. When we are driving, we can be patient and not grow angry with others. When we are at work, we can refrain from engaging in the all too common office gossip that belittles and defames others. With our gifts and talents, we can choose to support the Church and other worthy charities rather than get caught up in this materialistic and consumerist culture. In our families, prayer, weekly attendance at Mass, and seeking the Lord’s will can be an integral part of our lives, rather than an afterthought. When an illness or cross comes our way, we can bear it, imitating our Lord’s Cross.

You know, whether we see ourselves as a rose or lily, violet or daisy in the eyes of the Lord, if we seek joy on this earth and eternal happiness in God’s Kingdom, we need only remember what St. Therese said: “Perfection consists simply in doing his will, and being just what he wants us to be.”  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Who You Are

Homily, 24th Sunday Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Fr. Paul D. Williams, Jr., pastor, Saint Joseph's, Dalton GA

A friend of mine told me that he had dinner with a friend a few weeks ago, and that his friend brought along her roommate, a young woman who had recently graduated from college with a degree in nursing. Well, during the course of the evening, they talked, and it seemed that the young woman was very depressed. Apparently, her father had been telling her her whole life that she was overweight, and the men she knew in college were only interested in comparing her to the women they saw in the movies. And this was tearing her apart.

So he did what any good Southern gentleman and Christian would do, he told her not to let others judge her by her looks, that indeed she was very pretty. He praised her desire to be a nurse, because it was a beautiful thing to want to give of yourself in service to others, and he told her that no one had the right to treat her as an object, to harass her about her weight, or to hold her to impossible standards.

And you know what? It was the first time she had ever heard it. Perhaps that shouldn’t surprise us, with all the images we see in the media, but no one had ever told her those things before. My friend tells me that she lit up and went home seemingly renewed, just from his simple words of kindness. And reflecting on the experience, he wrote this to me: “why is it that I am so much more concerned with what’s happening in the life of this girl, a stranger to me, than I am concerned with my career or in getting what I want? [He goes on:] I know the answer: it’s Jesus, and the effect of putting Him above everything else. What’s happening in the life of this suffering stranger is, I’m surprised to say, of paramount importance to me.”

As he realized, it is of paramount importance that we know who Jesus is, Who do you say that I am?” Because if we do not know who he is, then we do not know ourselves, and we cannot know each other. Pope John Paul likes to quote the Second Vatican Council and say this: Jesus Christ “fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling.” [for all quotes, cf. Redemptor hominis 8, Gaudium et spes 22]

Well, let’s take a look at what Jesus Christ reveals to us about ourselves and each other. The first thing that He reveals to us is our dignity as human persons. The catechism speaks of human dignity in this way: (CCC 357) “Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of the human person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession, and of freely giving himself and entering into a communion with other persons.”

Because of this great dignity, we have certain rights, which are inherent to our very nature as human persons created in God’s image and likeness: the right to life, work, truth, and self-determination. No one has the right to treat you as an object, to be used or abused for mere economic gain or selfish gratification, because God has made you “a little less than the angels” (Heb. 2:7) And no one has the right to judge you by your sex, skin color, weight, nationality, or abilities and disabilities, because when God looks at you, He sees His creation, and all of his works are good (Gen. 1:31).

In other words, no one has the right to treat as anything other than what you are: a child of God, a temple of the Holy Spirit, a member of the Body of Christ. And it is in Jesus Christ, the God-man, that we know this is true... He who is the Son of God became one of us! The Vatican Council would say this about his role: “human nature as He assumed it ... has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect... For by His Incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every human person. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.”

And that is the next important thing that Jesus Christ reveals about us: we are sinners. Perhaps like the young woman my friend met, we are sometimes “more sinned against than sinning”, but nevertheless, we are sinful and weak, and we cannot save ourselves.

Yes, we are created in God’s image and likeness, but our very nature has been wounded by sin, and we need to be healed from that sin. And that can only happen through Jesus Christ, for only he, being sinless, could pay the price for our sins, only He could fulfill the prophecy of Isiah, "I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard."

Again, the Vatican Council would say, “[Jesus] restores [in us] the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward.” And because we have received such a great gift, Redemption from our sins, then we now have certain obligations, certain duties: to respect life, to seek God's will and live our vocations, to seek the truth, to respect others, free of anger, fear, prejudice, or discrimination - avoiding those things incompatible with God’s design of the human heart (CCC 1935).

The final thing which Jesus wishes reveals to us is that if we follow in his steps, we will discover the true meaning of love. When Peter answered Jesus’ question and said, “[You are] the Messiah of God”, he had perhaps only a vague idea of what that meant, because Jesus felt the need to explain further, “The Son of Man must first endure many sufferings, be rejected..., and be put to death, and then be raised up on the third day.”

There are a lot of ideas out there today about what love is, most of them false, some of them partially true, but there is only one way in which you can truly come to know that fullness of love, and that is in knowing Jesus Christ. True love is a total gift of self, and Jesus Christ showed us the way by giving Himself completely for our sake on the Cross, and “no one has greater love than this...” (John 15:13)

The Vatican Council would say with St. Paul, “The Son of God ‘loved me and gave Himself up for me’ (Gal. 2:20). By suffering for us He not only provided us with an example for our imitation, He blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning.”

Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” My friend denied what the world had to say to the young woman he met. He helped her, in some small way, to discover her true self, and he was only able to do so because he knew Jesus Christ. Only by denying our selves and looking to Him will we truly discover our selves.