Thursday, February 16, 2012

(72) The Vocations Crisis Hits Home

        A couple of Sundays ago, our pastor had a bad case of “stomach flu” and gave me a call at 6:30 am. He tried to find a priest, but none was available because of time conflicts. We're the only Catholic Church in our rural County of Appalachian Ohio and it would be impossible to give the faithful notice. His only option was to ask me to lead a "Sunday Celebration in Absence of a Priest".  I explained the situation to the congregation and presented the option of going to Mass in an adjacent county later in the morning. While our celebration was much better than nothing, it was in no way comparable to the awesome Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which makes Holy Thursday and Calvary present to us in a mystical way that transcends time.  Fortunately, we later found a priest to celebrate the 10 am Mass.

        That emergency situation is not rare. Many a rural parish like ours around the country, as in many mission areas, must depend upon Communion Services because a priest can only come once a month. Clearly, the situation is desperate and we got a taste of that. The vocations crisis hit home. A small parish as ours is blessed to have a full time pastor. PRAY FOR VOCATIONS!  See Appendix II below.

       Encourage young men to consider the priesthood.......especially sons, grandsons, and friends. The sick especially and all of us for that matter should offer our little irritants and our daily crosses to the Lord as a dynamic prayer for vocations. In that way and with a proper attitude, suffering can be most valuable and meaningful. Every saint has had to suffer. The sick and the shut-ins are particularly important as prayer warriors.

        God calls as many young men to the priesthood as ever. The problem is that they don't listen. The materialistic concerns and noise of a secular society drown out and stifle the call. Parents, relatives, friends, and the culture discourage and sometimes even ridicule those who are seriously considering the priesthood. Our Society does not have the spirit of sacrifice to accept celibacy, a lower income, an intense prayer life, and a modest life style. We often lack the personal generosity to give ourselves to God and His people through a life of service and prayer. A broken home or a dysfunctional family is not conducive to vocations. The clerical abuse crisis hurt and many priests do not promote their great calling. Since every Catholic is called to be a missionary, renewing the Church starts with each one of us.
 
       The cradle of vocations is a loving devout family. The home must be a domestic Christ centered church with daily family prayer, rosary, and spiritual reading for all of its members, including toddlers in some simple form. The primary educators of the faith are the parents, not the school or CCD which are only supplements. All members of the family should be active in the parish as altar boys, lectors, ushers, and leaders in parish groups. The father must be a true man of God and the spiritual leader of the family. The mother must nurture the faith. Priests must be held in high regard and respect. Reverence and an intense love of God and each other as well as neighbor must become family values. In other words, holiness should be the family goal. Every member of the family should serve each other, the parish, and the community in some way. After all, the kids are saints under construction. See Appendix I below for some great resources.

        Mass attendance, the very serious Sunday obligation of every Catholic should be a family must, rather than the casual “we attend whenever we can”. The entire family should go together to Mass as the Saturday night or Sunday routine. Ideally, monthly Confession should become a family tradition. There was a day when the nuns would march every Catholic kid in their school for First Friday of the month confession. Every family should pray that each child discern God's will for their lives and at least one of them become a holy priest, one of the greatest blessings that a family can have.

         Let's face it. The typical Catholic family is rather secular. Parents must step up both as models of holiness and teachers to raise saints. All of this is easier said than done; my family lacks a lot, but we strive for it. No family is ideal except the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. But a step or two in that direction is progress. The ideal provides a goal and even if that ideal should be reached, there is no guarantee, but the odds are in our favor. A family may produce a holy priest and lay leaders who are pillars of the parish and the community, but another son or daughter may exercise his or her free will to rebel and fall away to outside influences. The Lord only asks parents to sincerely try. The resources in Appendix I below should be a big help to any family that strives to be holy.
          
      A dynamic parish life is key. CCD and Confirmation Classes are s a bare minimum, but other devotions and activities as the youth group, Women's Club, Knights of Columbus, Bible Study, Parish Mission, etc. are essential.  In every parish, especially in the small ones, there's enough work to go around.   We cannot leave the work to George. Especially in small parishes, you're George. They have found that parishes that introduce perpetual adoration, become transformed. Even monthly days of Eucharistic Adoration help greatly. If a boy knows his pastor well, it is more likely that he will look to him as a model. A holy and dedicated pastor who is close to His flock and enthusiastic about his own vocation is a big help in encouraging good prospects. A short prayer for vocations could be part of every Mass and parish devotion, particularly in the offertory petitions and perhaps in the concluding prayers as well.

         The vocations are there. As His instruments, we must tap that gold mine. That is, with God's help we must mine the ore, refine it, purify it, and let the Lord mold and form the clay and the gold according to His will.

APPENDIX I: FOUR FABULOUS RESOURCES FOR THE FAMILY AT NO COST

        Every Catholic family should have, if at all possible, the following as a minimum in their home: the Holy Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and access to EWTN, the Catholic television channel. For those who cannot have the Catechism at home and all of us for that matter, Catholic Familyland, the Catholic family retreat center in Bloomingdale near Steubenville, has constructed four truly incredible websites for the family.  Simply click on the desired website.
 
       It publishes in print and on line www.FamilyCatechism.com* the complete Catechism of the Catholic Church. That is its book, especially written for families with links to numerous biblical sources and Church documents. The web site is a Catholic library at your disposal! Then there's a weekly guide to teach the faith, www.FamilyCatechesis.com because the primary educators in the Faith are the parents.  Spanish speakers, go to www.Catecismoparalafamilia.com

       In addition, www.familylandtv.com provides a wide selection of television programs to watch at your convenience instead of being tied down to a particular time. The programs change every week.......great speakers, interviews, kids programs, family movies, Mass, rosary, etc. 

       And finally, it has www.FamilyHoliness.com, a 4-Step Plan to keep your kids as strong and faithful Catholics for the rest of their lives against secularism and other forces of evil. IT'S ALL FREE! 


APPENDIX II: PRAYERS FOR VOCATIONS

          The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a collection of 41 prayers for vocations on its web site that could serve as fillers of empty spaces in Sunday Bulletins. See http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers/prayers-for-vocations.cfm. An example is:

O God, Father of all Mercies, Provider of a bountiful Harvest, send Your Graces upon those You have called to gather the fruits of Your labor; preserve and strengthen them in their lifelong service of you.

Open the hearts of Your children that they may discern Your Holy Will; inspire in them a love and desire to surrender themselves to serving others in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ.

Teach all Your faithful to follow their respective paths in life guided by Your Divine Word and Truth. Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, all the Angels, and Saints, humbly hear our prayers and grant Your Church's needs, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 
   There are many web sites on vocations. For example, the Diocese of Steubenville has http://home.catholicweb.com/diosteub/index.cfm/NewsItem?ID=328081. Other websites include: , www.vocation.com, www.vocationnetwork.org, www.catholicsoncall.org, www.catholicpriesthood.com, http://romancatholicvocations.blogspot.com.  Simply click on the desired website.

        All of this and more can be found on this blog, A Little Bit For God and His People” which has the following web address: http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com. To help the men to keep in good spiritual shape after the Men's Conference is "Becoming a True Man of God" at http://diosteubmen.blogspot.com  

       The whole Bible and Concordance is on line at www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_INDEX.HTM and www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/_FA.HTM.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

(71) Human Sexuality From a Christian Point of View

Presented as a member of a panel on human sexuality at the University of Rio Grande January 27, 2011. It was sponsored by the Chaplaincy Board of which I am a member.

HUMAN SEXUALITY FROM A CHRISTIAN POINT OF VIEW

       I would like to present to you a Christian perspective on human sexuality that may be new to some of you since much of it goes against today's secular culture. No matter what your opinion is, every college graduate should be aware of the conflicting points of view in our society.

        Sex as God intended is pure and beautiful! The abuse of sex is evil.......and causes a host of other evils in our society and in our midst......too numerous to mention in the limited time I have here.

      There is nothing more beautiful than on that wedding night, for the first time and always,......she exclusively for him and he exclusively for her. But today with recreational sex so common, so often it's a matter of what else is new? It's old stuff and the wedding is not as fulfilling.

       The probability of a lasting marriage is much greater when the man and the woman go into it as virgins. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, divorce is over 50% more likely when the couple has cohabited (“shacked up”) before marriage. Why? Because as they state it, the couple goes into marriage with a renter's mentality. Before marriage, the attitude is, “We can always break up”; there is no commitment. After marriage that same mentality continues and divorce is the result when they hit the inevitable rough spots.

        When a couple has sex for the first time on that wedding night, it's so very special......a new and shared experience, much more meaningful that seals the marital bond and strengthens it.

      Theology of the Body. One of the major contributions of John Paul II was his introduction of the “Theology of the Body”, a restating of Church teaching on human sexuality in a more positive, vibrant, and beautiful way. He affirmed that the sex act is a complete self-giving of the man to the woman and vice versa. This makes marriage not 50-50, but 100-100......a complete commitment of love and service until death do they part, no matter how tough things get. This mutual self-giving and commitment are renewed each time the couple engages in the joy and pleasure of intimate marital relations. To do that, to really mean it, and to put it into practice can only solidify a marriage and help it to weather any marital storm that may occur.

        Through the sex act, husband and wife become one flesh, the most intimate union possible between a man and a woman. The product of that intimate union under God may be another human being with great dignity. By being open to children, even with natural family planning, the couple confides in the will of God and cooperates with Him in the possible creation of a real person with a tremendous dignity because that baby, born or unborn, is created according to the image and likeness of God with a special purpose in life and for eternity. Thus the gift of sex is sacred, not to be abused.......not to simply be used for fun, going from one partner to another. That promiscuous mentality makes mutual self-giving a joke.

        Recreational sex is a big lie, empty of meaning. According to the Theology of the Body (see www.taborlife.org), recreational sex is using another person as an object for one's own selfish pleasure. That is a gross violation of the dignity of the person. Saying that young people are incapable of controlling themselves unwittingly puts them at the level of animals, who are guided by instinct rather than a rational free will. The single woman looks for love and commitment in sex; the single man looks for conquest and pleasure. The guy gets what he wants and the woman is cheated by a smooth line, only getting a broken heart out of it. Even if the couple is going steady and think they are committed and marriage seems to be not far off, WAIT! Breakups are all too common and the bond is not as strong if they do get married. If the couple has the self-discipline and mutual respect to be chaste before marriage, the probability of being faithful and committed after marriage is much greater.

        Common is the guy who brags in the locker room about all of his conquests. Interesting is that many if not most of them still have the ideal that they want the future mother of their children to be a virgin before marriage. Men and women, maintain the beautiful ideal of purity. Your friends might make fun of you and you may not be popular, but they will respect you, especially the true man or true woman, the type that you would want to be your future spouse for good.

        Believe me! Wait until marriage and save yourself for the man or woman that is meant for you. Don't give yourself to one person after another. Even if you are not a virgin now, you can still become a secondary virgin by resolving to be chaste from now until marriage. You won't regret it and you'll have a better marriage, a more satisfying and more fulfilling one when the right man or woman comes along. Almost 50 years ago, our country went through a sexual revolution that created the mess we're in now. I challenge you to be part of a new sexual revolution.......to put the gift of sex in its proper place as God intended. Thank you.

Additional Comments For Discussion

The consequences of the abuses of sex are many:
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases - over 35 of them. Condoms do not protect against many if not most STDs, including AIDS. We have an epidemic of STDs. One of them is said to cause cervical cancer. Would anybody in his/her right mind have so called “safe sex” with someone with AIDS? Condoms do not provide safe sex, only safer sex. According to J. Everett Coup, a former Surgeon General of the United States, said: “They slip; they rip; they tear; and they have minute holes in them, large enough for the HIV virus to pass through.” Isn't that playing Russian Roulette?
  • Unplanned Pregnancies - The failure rate of condoms is somewhere around 10% in preventing pregnancy. Natural Family Planning, if done correctly, is at least as effective. There's quality problems with condoms, especially if they are stored at high temperatures or deteriorate in some kid's wallet, waiting for his “opportunity”.
  • Abortion – Over 50 million of them since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion. There is considerable evidence that links the pill, an abortificent, with breast cancer.
  • Adultery & Higher Divorce Rates with the consequence of broken families. Most marriages end up in divorce.

  • Pornography – a common addiction among men that treats the woman as an object or toy to exploit.

  • Sex Crimes as Rape and Serial Murders. Usually the criminal had been addicted to porn.
     
  • Guilt & Loss of Reputation
     
  • Prostitution and crime that it often breeds.
     
  • Single Mothers, Abandoned by the Fathers, must often take low paying jobs to support the child or children.

  • Cohabitation – a very unstable relationship because either party can leave at any time even when the couple has born a child.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

(70-C) Article/Interview of Danny Abramowicz a Few Days Before the 2010 Super Bowl

        A few days before New Orleans beat Indianapolis in the 2010 Super Bowl, the Cleveland Plain Dealer interviewed a New Orleans legend born and raised in nearby Steubenville, Ohio.  He was among the first to be inducted into the Halls of Fame of Xavier University and the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame.  He was an All-Pro wide receiver in 1969 and Offensive Coordinator of Mike Ditka from 1990-93.  He hosts the television program Crossing the Goal on EWTN.  

       Danny fell into the high life of pro football and became an alcoholic.  After undergoing a conversion, he is devoting his life to helping men get into spiritual shape.  In his very dynamic talks around the country, he draws upon his experiences in pro football and applies them to the very serious game of life, where the trophy is Heaven as the Lord congratulates the new saint with the words:  Well done good and faithful servant.  Among his books are "Spiritual Workout of a Former Saint".

       Danny Abramowicz will be the featured speaker in both the morning and afternoon sessions at the Steubenville Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal on Saturday March 10 from 9 am to 3pm at St. John's Church in Bellaire, Ohio just south of I-470 across the river from Wheeling off of Route 7.  All men are invited to attend.  One does not have to be Catholic.  There is a discount of $5 from the original $20 if a person registers before February 15.

 Who dat? Danny Abramowicz was the New Orleans Saints' first star, and will root for his old team from his Steubenville home

Published: Sunday, January 31, 2010, 7:00 PM     Updated: Monday, February 01, 2010, 9:46 AM

Bill Lubinger, The Plain Dealer

In 1967, Danny Abramowicz emerged out of Steubenville, Ohio and Xavier University to become one of the most unlikely receiving stars in the NFL for the expansion New Orleans Saints. Today, Abramowicz still lives in Steubenville and is rooting for his old team in the Super Bowl. “The Saints winning the Super Bowl would put the finishing touches on it for the fans,” he said. “The people have been through thick and thin, and with [Hurricane] Katrina and all that on top of this ..." 


STEUBENVILLE, Ohio -- He was the football player nobody really wanted, not even the expansion team that chose him in the 17th and final round of the 1967 NFL draft.

        The kid was too slow. Didn't play at one of those big-time football schools. Didn't have a name that echoed easily across the stadium air on a fall Sunday afternoon. But he overcame his own physical shortcomings and season after season of losing football to be remembered as one of the best to ever play for the New Orleans Saints.

         When the Saints take the field Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts in their first Super Bowl ever, it will be for guys like Danny Abramowicz.


 
Times Picayune
In the creative style of the day, a newspaper photographer cropped Abramowicz in this photo to generate a sensation of speed. But that was never Abramowicz's strength during his NFL career.

       Far from the sun and spotlight of South Beach, one of the original New Orleans Saints will be at home on a quiet cul-de-sac in the shrinking Ohio steel town where he grew up, watching with his 90-year-old father and the high school sweetheart he married 43 years ago.

       "They'll probably get more exposure in these two weeks than in the whole history of the franchise," said Abramowicz, now 64 and deeply involved in his Catholic ministry through speaking engagements and "Crossing the Goal," which airs on cable's Catholic network, EWTN.

        Super Bowl? Abramowicz never even played on a winning team in six frustrating seasons in New Orleans, a city whose grit and resilience he shared to battle his way from afterthought to All-Pro. He endured more losing as a Saints radio analyst and as offensive coordinator under head coach Mike Ditka.
So, sure, the 44th Super Bowl is special because his old team finally made it.

         What a release! "The Saints winning the Super Bowl would put the finishing touches on it for the fans," he said. "The fans have been loyal through all these years. They went through the bag-heads and the 'Ain'ts' and all that stuff. ... The people have been through thick and thin, and with [Hurricane] Katrina and all that on top of this ..."  And so has he.

         Abramowicz -- pronounced Abram-OH-vich in his native Polish -- excelled in three sports at Steubenville Catholic Central, at a time when it seemed the Ohio River rolled past little more than billowing steel mills, churches and football fields. But quick moves and sure hands don't overcome covering 40 yards in a sluggish 4.8 seconds. Only Xavier offered him a football scholarship, so he accepted and headed to Cincinnati when racial strife and the Vietnam War had the country in tatters.


          He set records at Xavier, which later dropped football, and is in the school's sports Hall of Fame. But his football-playing days probably would have ended right there if not for the NFL looking to grow.
New Orleans was granted the league's 16th franchise and scheduled to begin play in 1967. The Saints had to sew a roster together from scraps and draft choices, setting their fate for years to come.

          "Most of their players were coming in as castoffs from other teams, so it was a slow go," said Joe Horrigan, spokesman for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, about 90 minutes northwest of here.

Danny Abramowicz talks Saints
Danny Abramowicz talks Saints Former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Danny Abramowicz talks about his time with the Saints from his Stuebenville, Ohio home. Watch video


          In the 17th and final round of the college draft, New Orleans picked a wide receiver with name that was hard to pronounce. Abramowicz, a fireman's son who grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and had only been to one NFL game in his life to that point, said the Saints never even called to tell him. He found out from another team's scout. He wasn't even invited to mini-camp.

          "It made me work harder," he said. "I learned from my father and from the people here that you never give up, fight like hell, and that's what happened."

          An eyelash from being cut that first NFL summer, he demanded head coach Tom Fears give him a fair shot, as he was promised at the start of summer camp. "I'm not leaving," he told Fears after being instructed to turn in his playbook. "You haven't even given me a chance."

          "You're serious, aren't you?" the coach said. Fears agreed to give him more time, although it was little more than lip service. Billy Kilmer, the Saints' first quarterback, said he was told before the team headed to Portland, Ore., for a preseason game against San Francisco that Abramowicz was going to be cut after the game. Kilmer relayed the bad news to Abramowicz and then promised to throw him as many passes as he could that night.


 
Times Picayune
Danny Abramowicz couldn't hold onto this pass against the Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans' old Tulane Stadium. But he averaged 51 receptions in his six full seasons with the Saints, who never won more than five games in any of those campaigns.

          "He caught every ball -- on the ground, out of reach, everything," recalled Kilmer, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale. "That's how he made the team, on pure guts. He played so good they couldn't cut him."
The Saints lost their first seven games before finally beating Philadelphia, 31-24, as former Browns kick returner Walter "The Flea" Roberts caught three touchdowns.

           As for Abramowicz, he didn't crack the lineup until the seventh game of the season, when a starter got hurt. He caught 12 passes that day and stuck with the first team.


           Abramowicz, who signed for $17,000 and earned no more than $64,000 in a season when he played, wound up leading the team in catches in 1967, led the league in catches two years later and set an NFL record for most consecutive games with a reception, long since broken.

           He retired 35 years ago after two seasons with San Francisco and a brief stop in Buffalo, but still stands third on the Saints' all-time list in receptions, touchdown catches and yards. The accomplishments are more significant given that he played in an era when quarterbacks didn't throw as much and defensive backs could all but maul a receiver.

           When the Saints launched a Hall of Fame, he was at the head of the first class in 1988 -- inducted with Archie Manning, father of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. He still remembers holding little Peyton and his baby brother Eli on his lap, back when he and their Dad were teammates.

           Abramowicz is lifelong friends with the Mannings. He made Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore one of his first hires when he ran the Saints offense for Ditka from 1997 to 2000. But come Super Bowl Sunday, his loyalty is without question.

           "I'd like to see Peyton have a good game and the Saints win with a field goal at the end. [Then] the monkey's off everyone's back down there," said Abramowicz, who would often troll the backwaters of the bayou for redfish with jazz trumpeter Al Hirt, a Saints minority owner at the time.

          Abramowicz, who has three grown children and four grandsons, got caught up in the New Orleans nightlife and developed an alcohol problem that almost wrecked his life. When he finally got help in 1981, recovery locked him into his family and his faith.

           Abramowicz and his wife, Claudia, lived on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain until Katrina chased them out to Memphis and, almost three years ago, back to Steubenville -- birthplace of Dean Martin -- to care for their elderly fathers.

           The sunroom off the back of their house on a hill is where they'll be glued to their television Sunday, watching the Saints make new history while remembering the old.

           The Saints were 3-11 that inaugural year, ending on a high note by crushing the Redskins, 30-14, as Abramowicz caught seven passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns.  When the team returned from Washington, they were greeted at the airport by about 3,000 cheering fans. Hirt threw a big party on the French Quarter that night, blowing his horn well into the next morning. All for a 3-11 team.

           "I always said that if we ever won the Super Bowl," Kilmer said, "they'd have Mardi Gras here the rest of our lives."