Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why Do We Worship: A Catholic Response to Victoria Osteen By Jerry Krajewski

 It is refreshing to see many people my age who are on fire for the Catholic faith and who are willing to share their knowledge of and love for the faith on this blog. Jerry Krajewski, who recently graduated from Cardinal Stritch University with a Bachelor's degree in Religious Studies, and one of my best friends, defends the reasons why we worship. This is a response to Victoria Osteen's recent comments at a convention which was attended by thousands of people,  She stated that "we don't worship God for Him, but only for ourselves."

Thank you Jerry for writing this inspiring blog post, and for your deep love for God and your courage in standing up for the Catholic faith.

(Photo Courtesy of www.loveburds.com)

Why do we worship?

A Catholic response to Victoria Osteen

By: Jerry Krajewski

Sunday mornings can sometimes be a chore.  We get up early on a weekend, sometimes trudges through snow storms, and go to a giant, beautiful building all in the name of worshiping God.  But why do we do this? Is it simply because the Bible says so, or is there more to it?

Victoria Osteen, wife of televangelist Joel Osteen, gave her input on why we worship God:

I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we're not doing it for God—I mean, that's one way to look at it—we're doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we're happy. That's the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you're not doing it for God really. You're doing it for yourself, because that's because that's what makes God happy

According to Ms. Osteen, we worship God for our own gain. This could not be farther from the truth. We worship God because we understand that we would be nothing without the Almighty. In this article, I will briefly explain the Catholic perspective on worship and put into perspective the serious issue of Christian hedonism.

As Catholic Christians, we have the ultimate form of worship in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  The word Eucharist is derived for the Greek word eucharista which means thanksgiving.  When Catholics worship, we come to God in utter humility of heart and in joyful thanksgiving.  We would be nothing without the Almighty, so we come together as a community of faith to thank God for the life that he gives to us.  One of the amazing things that happens at Mass is that everyone in the community ends up on their knees; it doesn’t matter if you are old, young, rich, poor, male, female, black, or white.  Everyone has equal worth in the eyes of God; for this, and many other reasons, we come each week to worship the God who made us. 

Now, that we have a general understanding as to why we worship god, now we need to move to the topic at hand: Christian hedonism.  This modern take on Christianity has become more and more prevalent in Evangelical churches.  Christian hedonism is a theology in which the person is that God is whatever we find pleasure in.  This makes God into all of the things that make us feel good. This makes our pleasure the highest good and what we must put above all else. 

So, what is so bad about this? Doesn’t God want us to be happy? It is true that God always wants what is best for us and to be truly happy.  However, it becomes self-idolization to put our own happiness above all else.  If you watch televangelists, they always seem to have huge congregations.  Their churches, the size of some sports arenas, are always full.  The money seems to be flowing in and the evangelists, themselves, are always dressed to the nines.  Christian Hedonism allows these evangelists to justify their lavish lifestyles.  They make millions of dollars and say that they make all of this because God loves them and God will bless you with riches if you give money to their ministry.  So, yes, according to this way of thinking, worshiping God is only about making ourselves happy.  God is always secondary. 

This way of thinking is very appealing to a lot of people. However, Christian hedonism must not be followed.  Self-idolization is an evil that seems very appealing but it is not of God.  For when we idolize ourselves, we bind ourselves in the chains of sin and isolate ourselves from God.  But when we put God as the center of our worship, we become free from the bondage and the isolation of sin.  We come to God with reverence and care; we come to worship because God created the heavens and the earth and gives life to us each and every day.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

O Lord You Have Probed Me and You Know Me: Arise Milwaukee's New Season

                                                      Photo Courtesy of Arise Milwaukee            

Last night was the first Eucharistic Adoration event of the season for Arise Milwaukee. The event was held at St. Dominic Parish in Brookfield and was wonderfully attended by nearly 1,000 people. I had the privilege of being one of the altar servers for the evening.

Fr. Luke Strand, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and spiritual advisor for Arise, presided. In a completely darkened church, Fr. Luke processed in with a spotlight shining on the monstrance while the congregation sang O, Salutaris.  Placing our Lord upon the altar, he began this intimate encounter with Lectio Divina on Psalm 139.

LORD, you have probed me, you know me:

you know when I sit and stand;*a
you understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;
with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me
and rest your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.c

If I take the wings of dawn*
and dwell beyond the sea,*

Even there your hand guides me,
your right hand holds me fast.

These beautiful words from the opening chapters of the psalm remind us that God is always in our midst and desires to enter into our hearts if we allow him. We are often in dire need of affirmation of God's presence. We often fall into the trap of believing that God is closer to us when our lives are blessed with high points of prestige or high honors, and is distant from our lives when we face significant challenges and become discouraged. King David definitely shared some of these same thoughts as he penned out psalms of God's faithfulness and unending mercy.

At Arise tonight, one of the speakers recalled a story told to him about St. John Vianney. The story goes that St. John Vianney questioned a young peasant about why he seemed to have a saintly glow  after he had finished adoring Christ in the Holy Eucharist, to which the peasant replied, "I look at Jesus and He looks at me."

In a world that does not know, or chooses not to know Christ, we must always remind ourselves that God is always present and that he will never forsake us. He knows us through and through and desperately wants to envelop us in His great love more and more.

I encourage you to attend Arise Milwaukee Missions and Eucharistic Adoration throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee whenever you find an opportunity. It is most important to allow ourselves time with the Lord Jesus especially when we feel alone or discouraged. Allow the Lord to gaze upon you and fill you with his deep love and reaffirm your understanding that He has never left your side.

The next Arise Milwaukee Mission will be on December 13th at St. Jerome Parish in Oconomowoc from 7pm-9pm. For more information please visit www.arisemissions.org


Friday, September 12, 2014

A Blessed Week of Honoring Our Blessed Mother

                                                         Photo Copyright: John Paul Bender

We've had two days this week honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary-Monday, September 8th having been the Birth of Mary and today the Feast of Her Most Holy Name. What a beautiful week in which to honor the Mother of the human race and of our Lord Jesus Christ!

                                                           Photo Courtesy of Terry Boldin

On Monday night, Roses For Our Lady celebrated the Birth of Our Mother with a beautiful Mass and outdoor rosary procession at Divine Mercy Parish in South Milwaukee. Presiding at the liturgy was Bishop Donald Hying along with assisting priests: Fr. Bob Betz, Pastor at Divine Mercy, Fr. Tim Kitzke, Pastor of Three Holy Women and native son of the hosting parish, and Fr. Luke Strand, Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. 

                                                            Photo Courtesy of Terry Boldin

In his homily, Bishop Hying addressed the importance of having a relationship with our Blessed Mother, "Look to our Mother for strength and inspiration for how we are to live as disciples. Her initial courage and acceptance of God's plan to give birth to Jesus and her encouragement to the apostles to go and make disciples of all nations after His resurrection should be the model of how to be a perfect follower."

                                                             Photo Courtesy of Terry Boldin

Mary was definitely with us as 400 people processed with the Eucharist through the neighborhood praying the rosary by candlelight in the late evening. Getting looks of confusion from the neighbors peering through windows and trailing with cameras was intimidating but the message of courage that Our Blessed Mother evokes surely shone through in all who were present. With Mary as our inspiration we will never have to be afraid. Let us continue bringing a message of hope to a nation that is still struggling to know Her son.  

                                                               Photo By John Paul Bender

Please join Roses For Our Lady this Sunday, September 14th, for their monthly holy hour for vocations at 2pm at Holy Rosary Parish on Milwaukee's East Side led by Fr. Enrique Hernandez. 

Happy Feast Day!

                                                   Photo Courtesy of Terry Boldin

Monday, September 8, 2014

"Passion For The Gospel & Service To Others": Recap of A Morning Reflection on Charity & Justice With Bishop Donald Hying

                                                (Photo Courtesy of Fr. Paul Hartmann)

Recently I attended a wonderful morning reflection on the issues of charity and justice with Bishop Donald Hying. Over 200 people from around the Archdiocese of Milwaukee gathered at St. James Parish in Menomonee Falls for the second installment of workshops put together by the Social Justice Ministry of the Archdioceses and neighboring parishes.

Leading off the morning of formation, Bishop Hying made a point of emphasizing that as Catholics we must have a burning passion for the Gospel and answer the call to bring the Good News to others.  Quoting the 1971 Synod of Bishops, Bishop Hying recalled that, "working for peace and justice is constitutive (meaning that it is an integral part) of the Gospel." This should be the mission that everyone should work towards.

There were so many interesting workshops to attend during the morning that it was hard to decide which one I should sit in on especially since they were all going on at the same time.

         Workshop A: St. Vincent DePaul "Coming Together to Get Ahead"
         Workshop B: Recruiting Volunteers
         Workshop C: Starting a Human Concerns Committee
         Workshop D: Inspiring People in Your Parish With Catholic Social Teaching
         Workshop E: JustFaith- Helping Individuals Experience Conversion
         Workshop F: Moving From Charity to Justice
         Workshop G: Faithful Citizenship in Polarized Times
         Workshop H: Youth on/in Mission

One of the things I had been bring to prayer long before attending this event was having an interest in mission work or going on mission trips. Naturally I wanted to attend the Youth on/in Mission workshop hosted by Directors of Youth Ministry, Claire Hoffmeyer and Bryan Ramsey at St. James, St. John Vianney and Good Shepherd parishes.

Both directors were on fire for the faith and genuinely wanted to make a difference in young people's lives by giving them opportunities for building up communities, volunteering time and service and designing and developing mission trips for faith growth. Both Claire and Bryan explained some of the encouraging aspects of their work with youth as well as some of the challenges that come with it.
I ask that you please keep Claire, Bryan, all youth ministers and young adult coordinators in your prayers as they continue to work hard to further instill the faith in our young people.

The next Morning of Formation for Charity and Justice with Bishop Hying will be held in Fond du Lac with more details to follow on the finalized date to follow.

If you wish to contact Claire and/or Bryan with questions, information or a desire to help them in their mission please see below.

                                                                        Bryan Ramsey                                                                                Director of Youth Ministry: St James & Good Shepherd Parishes Menomonee Falls
                                                      ramseyb@archmil.org or 262-253-2238

                                                                      Claire Hoffmeyer
                                                         Associate Director of Youth Minstry
                                                         St. John Vianney Parish Brookfield, WI
                                                          262-796-3944 or claireh@stjohnv.org

Friday, September 5, 2014

Summer Lessons in Humility: Abandoning Ambitions To Christ

“Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.” – St. Ignatius of Loyola
I’ve been attending daily Mass as much as possible this summer and I can honestly say that it has been the absolute best way that I can start each day. Sitting in the silence of Old St. Mary Church while the rest of the city is rising from sleep, hearing a few words of encouragement in the homily and receiving the Eucharist is the perfect “Big Three”.

One of the presiders at Mass once included this important fact in his homily: “As Catholics the most common topics discussed are prayer and sexual morality, but we almost never talk about the importance of honesty, generosity or humility.” Thinking back on this notion, I feel that this summer has really taught me a lesson in the need for humility.

As a young adult it can be scary getting ready to start off on your own. Discovering your calling in life can be a great challenge. Often times we get impatient with our current life situations and, feeling abandoned by God, try to take matters in our own hands.  We assume that God didn’t feel like answering our “needs”, so we think "I'll just take care of things by myself.” I discovered that I had been saying things of this sort myself and I know that I am not alone.

The temptation for young adults is to feel like we are in control of our own destiny.  When we encounter a difficult situation we think we can just pass it over or cut corners to get what we think we need. This is what society has told us, and unfortunately, I listened all too often.

As fall approaches I’ve learned that I can do nothing when I rely on my own power. I’ve come to understand that if I achieve anything at all, it is not because of my great determination or intense work ethic, but that God has shown such great mercy to me, a poor sinner, and allowed me to pursue and meet goals. I can do nothing without Him and that includes career moves and life decisions.

Humility does indeed need to be talked about more often. With a society that fills our heads with self-righteousness and pride we can turn to Christ for His strength and offer Him control of all of our ambitions. God knows what we need and when we need it and will never refuse anyone who gives everything over to His hands.

Pope Benedict XVI sums it up the best in this quote-

“If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful, and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed.”