Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Jimmy Vanek: The University of Dayton Summer Appalachia Program is in its forty-ninth year!


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It takes a long time to become a priest. And the time of formation, at least in our Diocese, there's an an internship here. So just like a doctorate does an internship and goes out into the field and kind of practices the work, we have an internship where we go out to a parish and we're assigned to parish ministry.


So for my internship year, which was in 2004, which was 11 years ago, 2004, I went to St. John Vianney in Mentor. I spent the year there. One of the things that I got to do was teach in the grade schools, and I was assigned to teach fourth graders. And I loved fourth graders because these kids were kind of like, you know, smart enough where you could joke around with them, but they weren't old enough where they didn't have an attitude yet. You know what I mean? So they were, like, really good kids to work with. And one of the kids that I taught in that grade was Jimmy Vanek.


Jimmy was in the fourth grade at that time. And Jimmy now is a sophomore at Dayton. So he's in college now. And I had gotten to know his family during that time, the Vaneks. And Molly and Jim, the parents, are just really good friends. You may notice I have a little bit of a tan right now. They actually took me on vacation. I was on vacation with them all week.


For the last couple of months, they have been talking about Jimmy. Jimmy is a sophomore at Dayton, and they have been asking me what I think about Jimmy because he might have the call to the priesthood, and especially what's coming up in his life right now is he feels kind of called to do some missionary work.


So UD, the University of Dayton, has a summer program where you can go to Appalachian, and you spend the summer serving the poor in the Appalachian mountains. It's a wonderful program and a tremendous opportunity; however, you're gone for the whole summer.


Now, it's hard for them because Jimmy is in Dayton, so they miss him kind of all year long. So they look forward to the summer vacation when he will be home.
So the parents, Jim and Molly, were talking to me a couple months ago. They said to me, you know, "Father, give us some advice. How can we talk him out of this? We want him to be with us. Selfishly, we want him to stay home with us." I asked them for a little bit, I said, you know, "What do you think about it? Do you think he should do this? And they both said, "Well, selfishly, we don't want him to, but if God's calling him to, you know, then we know we have to let him go." And so I just said, "Well, you have to really pray about it and have a serious talk with Jimmy and see if this is a genuine call and if it's what he's being called to do."


So a couple months have past by and we're on vacation, and both of them have kind of come to peace with the reality that Jimmy's being called to be gone for the summer. The funny thing is he had been praying about it, too. He sent an e-mail to them on vacation. I want to read you the e-mail. I asked Jimmy if I could read it. But this is the e-mail that he wrote to his parents. This is coming from a sophomore in college to his mom and dad. It's pretty awesome.


"Dear Mom and Dad: I wanted to get this all down in words, so I thought I would type them out and send it over.


"After spending weeks discerning and praying, I have decided to apply for the University of Dayton's Summer Appalachian Program. I keep feeling a call to this program, and I'm so excited to go. I wanted to send you two an e-mail to let you know this has nothing to do with me not wanting to be home. There is no place I would rather be than home." And he put their address.
"Leaving even after a three-day stay at home on break is the hardest thing that I have to do. I know sometimes that I can be difficult and messy, but I always want to be at home. And although this is the case, I need the opportunity to the step out of my comfort zone and live.


"A song quote that I really enjoy is, 'I hope one day I'll say I did it all. I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places. The things that I did, yeah, with every broken bone I swear I lived.'


"You two have instilled in me that message that I have the power to do a lot of good in this world. I can never thank you enough for the opportunities that you have presented for me, and I thank God every single night that I was blessed enough to come into this world as Jimmy Vanek. I truly believe that this is a program that God has called me to do. I know that you two don't necessarily agree with my decision, but I promise that when you come down and see how abundant Kentucky is with love, both in my eyes and in the people I am working with, I know that you will understand why I had to go.


"God calls each of to us love in different ways, and love comes in many shapes and sizes, and there are so many places that need love in this world, and I hope that you two will understand. I love you two so much.


"Jimmy"


Now, how is a parent going to respond to that letter, right? I mean, so when God truly does call us -- and I think about Jimmy, just such an awesome kid. And he's got this call, you know, that won't go away, and he's trying to talk himself out of it and his parents have tried to talk him out of it, but he knows he's being called to it. And when we writes a letter like this, his parents -- you know, when I asked Jim and Molly, I said, "Well, what do you think after reading that letter?" They said, "We know he's got to go." And they were at peace.


We hear in the Gospel today, Jesus was calling the first disciples. You know, he was going along the shore, and he first called Simon and Andrew and they're casting their nets, and he says, "Come and follow me." And they follow him. And he walks a little bit further down the shore and he saw James. So this is Jimmy. James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, they too were in a boat mending their nets, and then he called them. So they left their father in the boat, along with the hired men, and followed him.

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I think about how hard this must have been for the father, for Zebedee. So Zebedee is in the boat with his sons, who he probably wanted to take over the business. He's in the boat with them, and all of a sudden Jesus walks by and he says, "Come and follow me," and they leave. They leave him in the boat. And I used to always think, poor Zebedee, you know, like this is horrible. But I think, I have to believe at least, that there must have been a moment for them. Maybe it was just a way Zebedee looked at his sons and saw in their eyes that call. There must have been a moment when Zebedee understood that he had to let them go. There must have been that defining moment.


And the truth is God is still calling today. You know, he continues to call each and every one of us to a very special purpose in life. He calls us to a vocation. And sometimes it's hard to let the people that we love follow their dreams. It's hard to let the people that we know follow a path that seems kind of crazy to us.


And you know, I'll never forget when I first told my parents I was feeling this call to priesthood. And it was really hard kind of bringing the news up to them because I didn't know how they were going to react. My father was really having a tough time. He was really upset about it. And he said to me you know, "Michael, don't you want to be happy? Don't you want to be married and have a family and have kids?" And I said to him, "Yeah, all I've ever wanted to be was married and to have kids, but I feel like God is calling me." And I remember it was so tough for my father, until he started to see me grow and he started to see how happy I was. And now he sees me as a priest, and, you know, I know that he's truly at peace with it now. And he couldn't be happier and prouder, you know, than a son that's a priest. But it's hard in that initial moment to let go.


And so maybe you feel some call from God. You know, maybe you feel a call from God to the priesthood, or maybe you feel a call from God to do missionary work, or who knows what the call may be from God. But I assure you, if you open yourself up to that call and you really communicate it like this to other people, like Jimmy did to his parents, there will be that moment of understanding, there will be that moment of genuine love and desire that we all want for growth. We all want for someone to follow that call of God. And so I really just think it's so inspiring to take somebody like this, Jimmy, who I knew in fourth grade and now is truly answering the call of God, and to watch his parents wrestle with that, you know, to want to keep their son selfishly to themselves, but also, even more so, to be able to give their son to God and to be able to let him follow his call, I think, is such a beautiful thing.


And so we all have to ask ourselves that question: If God were to call us or to call one of our children, would we let them go? Would we let ourselves go? Would we ultimately trust Jesus enough to come and follow him wherever he leads?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Epiphany Homily: Do you have IFR training? John F. Kennedy Jr. could have lived if he did.

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On July 16, 1999, John F. Kennedy, Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy; and her sister, Lauren Bessette, die when the single-engine plane that Kennedy was piloting crashes into the Atlantic Ocean near Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr., was born on November 25, 1960, just a few weeks after his father and namesake was elected the 35th president of the United States. On his third birthday, "John-John" attended the funeral of his assassinated father and was photographed saluting his father's coffin in a famous and searing image. Along with his sister, Caroline, he was raised in Manhattan by his mother, Jacqueline. After graduating from Brown University and a very brief acting stint, he attended New York University Law School. He passed the bar on his third try and worked in New York as an assistant district attorney, winning all six of his cases. In 1995, he founded the political magazine George,which grew to have a circulation of more than 400,000. Unlike many others in his famous family, he never sought public office himself.

Always in the media spotlight, he was celebrated for the good looks that he inherited from his parents... Known for his adventurous nature, he nonetheless took pains to separate himself from the more self-destructive behavior of some of the other men in the Kennedy clan.

On July 16, 1999, however, with about 300 hours of flying experience, Kennedy took off from Essex County airport in New Jersey and flew his single-engine plane into a hazy, moonless night. He had turned down an offer by one of his flight instructors to accompany him, saying he "wanted to do it alone." To reach his destination of Martha's Vineyard, he would have to fly 200 miles--the final phase over a dark, hazy ocean--and inexperienced pilots can lose sight of the horizon under such conditions. Unable to see shore lights or other landmarks, Kennedy would have to depend on his instruments, but he had not qualified for a license to fly with instruments only.

The Piper Saratoga aircraft never made it to Martha's Vineyard. Radar data examined later showed the plane plummeting from 2,200 feet to 1,100 feet in a span of 14 seconds, a rate far beyond the aircraft's safe maximum. It then disappeared from the radar screen.

Kennedy's plane was reported missing by friends and family members, and an intensive rescue operation was launched by the Coast Guard, the navy, the air force, and civilians. After two days of searching, the thousands of people involved gave up hope of finding survivors and turned their efforts to recovering the wreckage of the aircraft and the bodies. Americans mourned the loss of the "crown prince" of one of the country's most admired families, a sadness that was especially poignant given the relentless string of tragedies that have haunted the Kennedy family over the years.

On July 21, navy divers recovered the bodies of JFK Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law from the wreckage of the plane, which was lying under 116 feet of water about eight miles off the Vineyard's shores. The next day, the cremated remains of the three were buried at sea during a ceremony on the USS Briscoe, a navy destroyer. A private mass for JFK Jr. and Carolyn was held on July 23 at the Church of St. Thomas More in Manhattan, where the late Jackie Kennedy Onassis worshipped. President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, were among the 300 invited guests. The Kennedy family's surviving patriarch, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, delivered a moving eulogy: "From the first day of his life, John seemed to belong not only to our family, but to the American family. He had a legacy, and he learned to treasure it. He was part of a legend, and he learned to live with it."

Investigators studying the wreckage of the Piper Saratoga found no problems with its mechanical or navigational systems. In their final report released in 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who became disoriented in the dark and lost control.  -Source-

His father, John F. Kennedy, said once in a presidential speech, almost prophetically about his son:

"I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it's because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, our sweat, and in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came."


But why did this tragedy happen:  "the crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who became disoriented in the dark and lost control."

What do we do when we get disoriented?

How do we make our way through the dark?

What do we do when we lose control in life?

Most of the time we rely on what we can see.  We rely on VFR - our visual flight rules.  

But the reality that most of life is Mystery, there is this whole other side of life that we cannot see or perceive and for that we need instruments to help us and guide us.  We need IFR Training - Instrument Flight Rule. 


The Catechism of the Catholic Church 

II. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TRADITION AND SACRED SCRIPTURE

One common source. . .

80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal."40 Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age".

. . . two distinct modes of transmission

81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."

"And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."

We read in the letter from Ephesians: 

Brothers and sisters:
You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace
that was given to me for your benefit,
namely, that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.
It was not made known to people in other generations
as it has now been revealed
to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:


The mystery has been made known by revelation!  It has now been revealed to the Apostles and prophets by the Spirit!

From the Gospel on the Feast of Epiphany, it was the chief priests and the scribes that were consulted: 

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

The Wise Men were not only in tune with the living tradition but also sought the living Word of God.

After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.

They were guided through the darkness, through the night, through the mystery, and ultimately to Christ.

They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The truth is we need to be well trained in the IFR, Instrument Flight Rules, for spirituality.

Most of us think VFR, Visual Flight Rules, what we can see and touch as enough to get us by in life.  But at some point or another we will be plunged into darkness, into suffering, into mystery and it is then that we must turn to the instruments of Scripture and Tradition.

For John F. Kennedy Jr. "the crash was caused by an inexperienced pilot who became disoriented in the dark and lost control."

Take every opportunity to learn about Scripture and Tradition.  Become an experienced member of our faith not only for your own good, but so that you can help navigate those you love through the dangers of life and into Eternal Life in Heaven.

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5 Ways to do this:
1) Read your parish bulletin and take the opportunities that are offered to learn about your faith.
2) Consider teaching PSR or RCIA.  There is no greater way to learn than to actually have to teach it. 3) Make a retreat.
4) Browse my Online Sacristy (Click Here: scroll down until you see it on the right hand side)
5) Download the EXAMEN App - St. Ignatius says it's the best way we can let God guide us every day.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Kenny's Chesney: Don't Blink and the New Year

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One of my favorite Country artists is Kenny Chesney, and there's a beautiful song that he has called "Don't Blink." And that's the song I want to use to kind of look at our new year, and especially to look at how Mary is able to take in this wonderful Christmas, this birth of her son, and how she is able to take all these things in and reflect on them and ponder them in her heart. So I am going to read to you the lyrics to "Don't Blink," and I just want you to think about your new year.






I turned on the evening news

Saw a old man being interviewed

Turning a hundred and two today

Asked him what's the secret to life

He looked up from his old pipe

Laughed and said "All I can say is."




Don't blink





Just like that you're six years old and you take a nap and you

Wake up and you're twenty-five and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife.





Don't blink





You just might miss your babies growing like mine did

Turning into moms and dads next thing you know your better half

Of fifty years is there in bed

And you're praying God takes you instead

Trust me friend a hundred years goes faster than you think.





Don't blink




I was glued to my TV and it looked like he looked at me and said

"Best start putting first things first."

Cause when your hourglass runs out of sand

You can't flip it over and start again

Take every breathe God gives you for what it's worth.






Don't blink





I've been trying to slow it down

I've been trying to take it in

In this here today gone tomorrow world we're living in.






Don't blink


I think the wonderful thing about Mary is, and we celebrate this in the Feast of the Mother of God in her contemplative of stance at the world. The reality that she was able to take all of these things in and treasure them in her heart.






We hear in the Gospel today that shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem to find Mary and Joseph and the infant lying a manger. So you have to imagine. This birth is going on, shepherds are coming in. They are coming in haste. They've got their sheep there. The angels are appearing. There's all these wonderful, crazy things happening. It's wild. And Mary is able to stop for a moment and to take it all in. And we hear the phrase in the Gospel, "And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart."






The truth is life flies by. And I know already at my age every year goes faster than the next. And Father Martello, who is even older than I, says that as you get older, you know, the years go by even faster. And the truth is life does go by like that.






So don't blink.






The idea is that we can try to take in all the moments of our lives. So especially as we begin this new year, just try to appreciate our families, try to appreciate our loved ones, try to appreciate every moment we have here at the Eucharist, to try to take in the Word of God, to try to take in all the grace, all the wonderful things that happen, hold them in our hearts and treasure them because life goes so fast.






So don't blink.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Mark Wahlberg and The Secret to a Holy Family


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A few days before Christmas, Mark Wahlberg was on the Kelly and Michael Show, now Kelly and Michael. And us -- my generation know him better as Marky Mark from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Yeah, you got that? But he's gone on to be the professional Mark Wahlberg, and he really is. He's an outstanding actor. And believe it or not, he's an outstanding Catholic.


I'm actually going to use him and his model of family for the image of the Holy family. So for those of you who don't know who Mark Wahlberg is, you might know him when I name some of the movies. He was in Boogie Nights, Three Kings, The Perfect Storm, Planet of the Apes, Rock Star, The Italian Job. He won an Academy Award for the best supporting actor in The Departed. He was in The Other Guys, The Fighter. You might know him from Ted, that movie with the teddy bear that was really bad and obscene, and Transformers: Age of Extinction. Some of the kids might know him from Transformers.


So he was on Kelly and Michael. And as he was being interviewed, they asked him, "What are you going to do for the holidays?" And when he got on to the show, he said by the way, "Merry Christmas" to everybody, and Kelly and Michael were very quick to say, "Happy Holidays." And he said, "Merry Christmas," like three or four times, and every time they corrected him "Happy Holidays" to be politically correct.


And so they asked him, "What are you going to do for Christmas?" And he said, "We're going to spend Christmas in our house and then we're going to Barbados for vacation with my wife and family. I was thinking about somewhere cold and kind of scenic where there is snow and let the kids snowboard, and my wife said that would be the end of our marriage. My wife is from Florida and she only likes warm weather. I'm happy to take my wife wherever she wants to go."


So they had a sneak peek of their holiday picture. So you know you have the family picture everybody sends out for Christmas now, where you have all the kids and mom and dad, and everybody looks beautiful and happy. So they showed this picture, and it was beautiful. And all of a sudden you hear everybody on the set laughing, because when they showed the picture, Kelly said, "You know what? Everybody is smiling, but you look like you are in pain."


And Mark Wahlberg said, "Yes, I was in pain because trying to get these kids to sit down and pose for a picture when all they want to do is play. And of course, that's the one picture out of 500 that my wife chooses, right, the one where I'm looking like that. And of course she wants to go from one location to the other and all these different sets and costumes and dresses, and all the kids want to do is play, and they're running around like crazy. You can't make them do some organized photo shoot.


"So it's going crazy, and I'm yelling at them, and everybody is all over the place, and that's the picture that she chooses. And my wife still manages to get a smirk while all of that is going on. She loves the holidays.


"You know, I want to push the religious aspect of Christmas a little bit more, like no gifts and, hey, let's go to church."


And Kelly said, "How did that work out for you?"


He goes, "The same way as the winter vacation. I'm not suggesting anything anymore."


So he went on to talk about how he's been really changing his life. So he's removed, for the last seven years, he's been trying to remove all of his tattoos. And he, you know, as some of you may know, lived a very bad life after he was out of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. He went on to do some pretty bad things, and he actually went to jail and he did some time and he hurt some people. He did some pretty horrible things. He's had a huge conversion. And he goes on now to be famous, right? He's really made it as a famous movie star, but he says that "being Catholic is the most important aspect of my life."


He said this at an interview:


Once I focused on my faith, wonderful things started happening to me. And I don't mean professionally. That's not what that's about. These days I'll be in church and people come up to me and say -- now, remember he's Catholic, and being in a Catholic church, and people come up to him and say, "Do you mind if I sit and pray with you?" And they will start praying, and it will turn out that they're praying for their new movie to be a success or whatever. I'm like, this is not what I'm here for. For me to sit down and ask for material things is ridiculous. It's much bigger than that. I want to serve God and to be a good human being and to make up for the mistakes that I made and the pain that I put people through. That's what I am praying for, and that's what I recommend to anybody.


His whole life changed when he centered his life on prayer, on his faith and on his family. He stayed focused on what was most important in life, and his career followed that path.


Wahlberg goes on to say, "Being a good actor or good producer, that's not going to help me sleep at night, or is not going to help me get into heaven. The most important thing from where I sit is to be a good father, a good husband, and a good human being -- a man who helps his fellow man and raises his kids to be good human beings too. Every single aspect of my family life is joy."


He loves his family. Remember, this is coming from the successful actor. So often we see people when they get success, they get the fame, what happens to their married life and their families? It usually falls apart. He's got something right here.


So how does he stay so focused when he's this man of Hollywood? He's rich. He's famous. He can fly to all these places for vacation. And it goes back to his faith. He actually has a spiritual director. So Father Flavin is his parish priest. And Father Flavin has known Mark Wahlberg since he was 13 years old. He's known him for all these years. He helped him when he was in jail.


Wahlberg said, "He's been in life since I was 13. He married me and my wife and baptized all of my children," and he also helped him to lead and guide him in some of the movie choices that he makes. And, no, he's not always been in great movies, but Wahlberg says that helps show some of the humanity. One of the most powerful things about it is his daily life.


So, he begins every day in prayer and he goes to daily mass. And if he can't go to daily mass for some reason, he goes into whatever local Catholic church he can find, and he spends ten minutes in prayer and spends some quality time with Jesus.


So he said, "The first thing I do when I start my day is I get down on my hands and knees and I give thanks to God." So he gets down on his hands and knees and thanks God for his life. "If I can start my day off by saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I'm doing the right thing. That ten minutes helps me in every way throughout the day." So he begins every day with ten minutes in prayer.


Mark Wahlberg and his family and his faith are witnesses to Hollywood, and I think to all of us, of what it truly means to be a holy family and how Jesus will really help and lead us and guide us through the crazy world that we live in. If he can lead and guide Mark Wahlberg through the craziness he's been through, believe me, he can lead and guide each and every one of us through whatever craziness we face.

So today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family.


When I was born, my mother, she did this with all six of us, but she kind of consecrated us to God. With each one of us, she blessed us and asked God for these three things. She said, "Please help my child to be holy, healthy and happy," in that order. To be holy, healthy and happy. That was her prayer for each one of us when we were born. And the truth is, it does need to be in that order. Holiness first, healthiness and then happiness.


Sometimes we get mixed up if we go in the opposite order and we want happiness first or healthiness first, and we kind of put holiness on the back burner. Holiness has to come first.


What does it mean to have a holy family? When we hear in the scripture today, "God sets a father in honor over his children." So think about this. Mark Wahlberg is a spiritual leader of his family. He is the one that is leading family in the faith. The truth is, in our faith tradition, it's always been the father figure that has been the teacher, the primary teacher of the faith. We even say this at baptisms, that the father, that he be not only the primary teacher, but the best teachers of the faith. The father is really supposed to be the one that leads the family in the faith. And I think the difficulty so often we've gotten our priorities mixed up.


Oftentimes, when I'll bury a father, their children will tell me about what was important to him, and they will say to me, "My father never missed a day of work in his whole life." And they think -- that's a wonderful virtue by the way. But they say that's what he prided above all. He never missed a day of work in his whole life. Now, he didn't go to church or he didn't really pray to God, or anything like that. He was a good guy, but he never missed a day of work in his whole life. Did that father help his children get into heaven? No. He missed the boat, totally. He focused his whole life thinking he was doing good, thinking that work was the most important thing. But the most important thing is not work. It's God.


Imagine if a child said to me, "My father never missed a mass a day of his whole life," or say, "He never missed a Sunday mass or Holy day a day in his whole life." You've got 52 masses a year, plus the Holy days. Let's say 60. You times that by 80. That's -- what is that? Eight times six. What is it? Somebody yell it loud that can do math.


480.


Four hundred eighty thousand. 480. Yeah, but like 80 years. Is that it? Forty-eight hundred. Thank you. None of you know math.


So imagine if 4800 times God was put first. Now, I know all of you today on Sunday, Sunday mass right now, you have given up something to be here, right? Maybe it's -- maybe you could have slept in. I don't know what it is. You've given up something to be here Sunday, and Sunday after Sundayafter Sunday after Sunday you've given up something. You have chosen holiness over something else 4800 times over your whole life.


Then we hear in the second reading, "Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord forgives, so must you do. And over all these put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts."


That's what truly holiness is, when the peace of Christ is at the center of our lives and he controls our hearts.


"Let the word of God dwell richly in you." How does that happen? It happens by coming to mass every Sunday and hearing the word of God. And as Mark Wahlberg did, every day spending ten minutes letting the word of God dwell richly in us.


"Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in gratitude in your hearts to God."


So we hear, you know, Jesus made it very simple. He said if you want to get to heaven, there's only two commandments. The first is love God with all of your heart, all of your mind and all of your soul. And the second is love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two commandments, and all of the commandments fall under these.


I think the problem is we've lost the first one: Love God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul. That's what makes us holy. We just kind of focused on the second one, which is the good-guy heresy, I'd like to say. Just be a good guy and that's enough. That's wonderful, but if you are not loving God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, you're failing, we're failing in our priorities.


So finally we hear in the Gospel, Jesus is consecrated. He's taken to the temple. So right after he is born, Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple and they lay him down in the altar. Now, the altar was always a symbol of sacrifice. So in the temple back in those times, 2000 years ago, they would sacrifice animals. And that's why they were taking a pair of turtle doves. They would sacrifice animals for God to make atonement for their sins.


Jesus, they actually took Jesus to the altar and laid him on the altar and they gave their son to God. And that's when we heard Simeon say, "Now you let your servant go in peace, for your word has been fulfilled."


Notice for Mary, she chose holiness first, but happiness didn't follow, because we hear in the Gospel the prophet says to her, "In your heart, Mary, a sword shall pierce." Mary would experience pain by giving her child to God. Holiness would not ultimately lead, in all cases, to happiness. I'm sure there were many happy occasions for Mary, but she's known as the sorrowful mother because holiness came first.


So the truth is, for all of us, that's the order, the priority that we ought to have with our families: Holy, healthy and happy. We want all three. And hopefully we do have all three, but they have to come in order. And sometimes healthiness and happiness don't happen, but holiness can always happen.


And just as Mark Wahlberg had been living a horrible life, and he was saved and kind of turned back to God, his whole life changed and he took once more that role of being the spiritual father of the family. He's the one that insists that Christmas really is about Christ. He's the one that insists on daily prayer and going to mass together as a family and really focusing on what Christmas is really about. He's the one that goes on a talk show and says, "Merry Christmas" when everybody else says "Happy Holidays." Something has changed in him.


So for all of us, in order for us to have holy families, we truly do need to keep our priorities in order. I think we can do that by Sunday mass, maybe even daily mass, and by at least daily prayer by taking ten minutes, getting down on our knees as we start our day and asking God to help make us and our families holy, happy and healthy.