The recent Synod on the Family has stirred speculations that the Catholic Church might relax her rules on divorce. Most Catholics are aware of three basic rules:

  • Catholics aren’t allowed to get divorced.
  • Catholics who want to remarry can go through the Annulment process which nullifies the first marriage and allows them to remarry just like anyone else.
  • Catholics who get remarried without first getting an Annulment aren’t allowed to receive Communion in the Catholic Church.

Many see these rules as old fashioned and arbitrary. Those who have dealt with the pain of divorce sometimes feel like the Church won’t let them move on to a healthy new relationship. The rules begin to make more sense when you understand where they came from and why. In fact, if you go back far enough you will find that the Church teaching on divorce started with something one person one said. And that person happens to be Jesus.

Every religion and culture that I know of has accepted some form of divorce. The Jews were allowed to get divorced. There were few stipulations related to divorce (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4), the primary one being that a divorce had to be put in writing (called a “bill of divorce”). There were debates over legitimate reasons for getting divorced. Some said your wife could be a terrible person, but if she didn’t commit adultery, you were stuck with the marriage. Some said any cause whatever was allowed. Their opponents joked that if your wife burned breakfast, you could get a new wife to cook you dinner. The Pharisees ask Jesus his opinion, and his answer is shocking:

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Ordinary Time, 29th Sunday. God uses Cyrus, king of Persia, to accomplish His plan for the “chosen one.” The Thessalonians were chosen by God to spread His good news, using the language of the Greeks and the Roman roads. God is working behind world events to accomplish His plan. Our Gospel warns us that there are more important things than who gets our taxes and how much we pay. God wants to be the Lord of their lives and their country. But the leaders have their minds made up — they are not open to the truth. Do we accept God’s Lordship, or do we have our minds made up? Render to Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s, and to God what belongs to God….what does not belong to God?

(19 Oct 2014)

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I recently returned from a great men’s retreat. Like most retreats, the participants went home on a “spiritual high.” But this retreat emphasized followup before sending us out. They suggested meeting weekly with a small group and going through a short accountability list: Piety, Study, and Action. The idea is simple but brilliant. Here’s how it works.

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Ordinary Time, 27th Sunday. The Chief Priests of the Chosen People had gotten comfortable with God at a distance. They didn’t like what He had to say face-to-face. Too often we get comfortable with God at a distance and forget He wants to speak to us every day. We need to let God’s truth penetrate our hearts.

St. Ignatius of Loyola discovered that God had better plans for His life. He followed God’s plans and found true happiness. He would always start his prayer with two important steps:

  1. Consider how God our Lord looks upon him.
  2. Name his own desire for the prayer time.

Chances are, you’re “too busy to pray.” But that’s because you’ve filled your life with activity. Most of us don’t know who you want to be, or how to get there. Let God tell you. If you don’t pray yet, I challenge you to give God 5 minutes at the beginning and the end of each day. Because God wants to bless us with the Truth, but we have to give Him the chance.

(5 Oct 2014)

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Ordinary Time, 26th Sunday. We all need a savior. Tax collectors and prostitutes entered the Kingdom of God when they admitted it. The chief priests and elders did not admit they needed a savior and did not enter the Kingdom of God. Maria Simma tells the story of a priest who talked about God’s mercy and a prostitute who received it. As Christians we profess belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. How many of us have said, “Yes” to God’s call but were still just sitting there in the pews, not actually doing the will of God?

This past Saturday I was in prison. Vince, the young man who lit St. Anthony on fire, had asked me to be his sponsor when he entered the Catholic Church. He is part of an amazing little group of Christians in the Racine Youthful Offender Correctional Facility. Tax collectors, prostitutes, prisoners and arsonists are entering the Kingdom of God before us, because they said “No” and then they did what God asked. We have said “Yes” but are  we doing what God has asked us to do?

(28 Sep 2014)

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Regular readers will know that I keep my eye on modern technology. I like to think I’m pretty tech-savvy, at least for a priest. So imagine my surprise when I went computer shopping at Best Buy and had no idea where to start. Touch-screen laptops, detachable laptops, all-in-ones, portable all-in-ones, Chromebooks, MacBooks, AMD, Intel…. I was totally lost. I asked the sales kid a lot of questions, but I got the feeling that even he didn’t really know what they all did. I walked out with a Windows 8 desktop computer — the old fashioned kind with cables that plug in, and a screen that doesn’t “touch”. You go with what you know.

The new computer introduced me to the new world of Windows 8 (actually 8.1). I’ve been using Windows a long time. I remember when the Start button was a new feature (1995). The blue bar of Windows XP is forever emblazoned in my memory. I used Vista for as short as possible, upgrading to Windows 7 as soon as it came out. That was five years ago. I can see lots of room for improvement with Windows 7, but overall it’s been a stellar performer. Has Microsoft created a more perfect Windows?

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Ordinary Time, 25th Sunday. My theme as a child was, “It’s not fair!” To which my mother would respond, “Life’s not fair.” Sure enough, she was right. God does not treat everyone the same. God is generous: he gives us all far better than what we really deserve. Though we are far, God is near. The true gift that God offers is Himself, and he offers Himself to every person.

St. Paul shows us the right attitude. He lives in a relationship of nearness to God and he is grateful for all he has received. What’s more, St. Paul gives generously in proportion to how he has generously received. God gives more to some and less to others. But the more we have received, the more we are asked to give.

Saturday the Church celebrated the memorial of the Korean martyrs: Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions. The faith in Korea is unique because it was brought by a Korean, Yi Sung-hun. He encountered the faith in Beijing and was baptized there. He came back to Korea bringing rosaries, statues and catechisms, eager to evangelize his countrymen. He had received the gift of faith and he knew what it was worth. You have received the gift of faith; do you realize what it’s worth?

(21 Sep 2014)

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Today it was announced that the Holy Father had appointed Bishop Blase J. Cupich as Archbishop of Chicago, one of America’s largest Dioceses. Bishop Cupich was originally a priest of Omaha, Nebraska, and served most recently in Spokane, Washington. As I was researching the new Archbishop I found a wonderful explanation of Christian marriage that he wrote to the good people of Spokane.


What We Believe About Marriage

The vocation of marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures and spiritual attitudes. Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶1603

Marriage: Bookends of the Bible, the Story of Our Life with God
It is striking that the Bible begins and ends with a reference to marriage – the union of man and woman in Genesis and “the wedding feast of the Lamb” in the Book of Revelation. How appropriate, for the Bible is nothing less than God’s call for us to enter into a relationship with Him, to become His partners and co-creators in bringing about the salvation of the world. The union of man and woman, then, is not only a good for the couple but for the entire community of the Church and of humanity, for marriage serves as a model and a point of reference for all that God calls humanity to be.

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Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Every year on September 14 the church celebrates the finding of the true cross by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine. The cross was an instrument of torture and oppression. But Jesus has turned it into a sign of God’s great love. In fact the cross teaches us that love is stronger than violence and hate, stronger than force or fear, stronger than money and power. Love wins. In the game of life, hearts are the trump card. Don’t be tempted by spades, clubs, or diamonds. If you are holding the King of Hearts, you will always win.

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