Friday, December 8, 2006

A young priest, a good sermon, and a long confession line...

 A young priest in his Angelic Chasuble this spring

I had wanted it myself but felt funny asking for it. After being flanked by several people asking me if I could get it for the blog, I mustered the courage to ask, and I managed to get it. "It" was a sermon delivered by one of the Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross (ORC) (pictured above) at the 9:30am Latin Novus Ordo on the feast of Christ the King. He offered the homily if I would allow him to remain anonymous. He did not want to draw attention to himself.

Reading it is one thing. But, sitting in the pew listening to it was very.....humbling. Banality is something that simply is not found in sermons at Assumption Grotto. Rather, they are always moving and always getting us to dig deep within our souls in fruitful ways. For a person serious about pleasing God, this is not negative, but very positive. A pearl is created by friction and abrasion within a clam, and in a like manner, the soul must be polished.

When I first came to Assumption Grotto and was going to the 7:30am Mass each day, I would notice this priest going to his confessional right after Lauds ended (about 7:20/7:25), along with the co-pastor who also goes to his confessional outside of posted hours.  He would also just show up spontaenously at times when people were in Church, like during 40 hours devotion or First Friday Adoration.  You could almost count on him being there, if there was an event in Church.  I often thought of St. John Vianney who spent many hours in the confessional.  People respond to a priest in his confessional, especially at Grotto.

After the Mass, about 1/2 hour before the noon Mass on Christ the King, I walked through the parking lot with the young priest, in my quest to get a copy of his homily. As he walked in the vestibule we could see  the long line at his confessional through a window in the door. Our jaws dropped simlultaneously and we looked at one another. It wrapped around the wall, longer than I was use to seeing. He turned to me, beamed with an enthusiastic smile, and said, "Oh I must get in there, I already have a long line". As he rushed off - I tugged at his jacket and whispered tersely, "What did you expect after a sermon like that?!!!"  He smiled, put his head down, and hurried past the line of people to his confessional.

This is key. I believe a priest can see the fruits of his sermons in the confessional where souls work to respond to God's grace. I know all too well with myself when I first began to take my faith seriously in May of 2005, that the wholesome, soul-searching sermons and homilies at Assumption Grotto made me desire frequent confession even if only for working through venial matters and imperfections. The priests at Grotto encourage this and are so very patient in this regard. They never rush or hurry someone and the people wait just as patiently knowing that time the priest takes with others, will also be taken with them. I suppose along with the good sermons, the lines had a luring effect to this awesome sacrament, as well.

Anyone in metro-Detroit in need of a great confessor will find their fill at Assumption Grotto. Just come on a Sunday and you'll blend right in with the rest of us poor sinners.

Without further delay, here is that simple, fine homily.

When we give up our stubbornness, CHRIST can reign in us!

Assumption Grotto, CHRIST the King, November 26, 2006, 9:30am

I don’t know if there is anyone here who enjoys to be corrected. We don’t like it when somebody points out our mistakes and faults, or tells us what we do or how we think is wrong and has to be corrected.

We don’t like to be corrected because it humiliates us: we have to admit a mistake.

We don’t like to be corrected because we think: ‘Who is that person who tells me what I’m supposed to do!’ We prefer to follow our own opinion and will.

We don’t like to be corrected because we might have to change something when a person tries to correct us.

In our pride we can even build a wall around us – a wall that makes it impossible for others to approach us and tell us the truth about us, because they fear hurting us or they fear that we are going to hurt them. We react even harshly when we get corrected, and in this way we make sure that the other person won’t try this again!

How proud can we be? How self-righteous? How blind? How insincere!? We put a blindfold over our eyes which make us unable to be sincere with ourselves!

So powerful is our human will! Through our will we can decide over our eternal life or death. How stubborn and fixed on one’s own will a person can be!

Certainly you have already experienced wanting to convince another person of something, but that person – even listening to your best arguments and reasons – didn’t want to change his mind. Stubbornness, we call it. The person even understands your reasons, but when he doesn’t want it, you won’t change his mind.

We celebrate the Solemnity ‘CHRIST the King’ today. CHRIST wants to reign in our souls, and He starts to reign in us when we lovingly submit our will to His Divine Will. St. Maximilian Kolbe said that holiness is when the small w (my will) equals the big W (GOD’S Will). The more our will becomes similar to His, the more He reigns in us and loves in us! CHRIST establishes His kingdom in our souls step by step: it’s a process in which we have to cooperate!

But what hard work to try to submit our will to CHRIST: To give up our plans, when the Lord wants it differently! To give up the pride to think that I’m always right and I know it better.
How often do we live in that illusion that we are already advanced in holiness?

We don’t like to be corrected. But, how good it would be for us if we were to sometimes ask our spouse, a good friend, parents, children, what they think we should make better or what we should change? We would see ourselves in a different light and could be more attentive! We could discover things which we never thought before and submit it also to CHRIST!

How beneficial would it be if we would accept correction?!

Every now and then it happens to me that a dear brother would come to me and – in true brotherly love – tell me something about my behavior. Though he said it in a gentle way, I didn’t like it very much. But then, afterwards, I started to think about it and I began to see myself in a more self-critical way – and I had to admit that he was right. With his help, I found another aspect which I didn’t want to see before, that I didn’t submit to CHRIST’S power over myself, and from that moment on I could give my will more perfectly to CHRIST.

The Lord has many ways to show us the truth about ourselves. The HOLY SPIRIT makes us discover our faults.

He sends our Guardian Angel to hold a mirror before our eyes, so we see who we really are, and to take the blindfold from our eyes which makes us unable to see ourselves in the true light.

He tries to help us to get on the right track to eternal life. He made us social beings who depend on one another… But very often we don’t want to accept the help of others.

But HE also sends us people, or a good book, or a situation in our life, that make us examine our conscience again in humility and recognize that there is something which has to be submitted to CHRIST’S Kingship.

In this way – with our cooperation – the Lord can conquer our heart slowly for Himself, when we don’t mess His plans up with our stubbornness of will.

The Collect prayer today mentions the ‘slavery’ in which we live. This slavery is the slavery of our own will. His Will is the best for us. His Will leads us to freedom.
Our will just enslaves us.
We want to put our will into His hands, so that CHRIST the King may be able to use us as channels of love. In this way, we will reign with Him.
Fr. E.S., ORC