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I have recently discovered a lost article from St. Thomas Aquinas’ and I have posted it below.

ST II: Q.179 a.3

Is it fitting for Christians to engage in skiing?

   It would seem that it is fitting for Christians to engage in skiing.

1. It is written in the Gospels that Christ himself often took to the mountains. Moses also ascended the mountains at time and by doing so grew closer to God.

2. It is fitting for Christians to engage in pleasurable activities especially if they provide an opportunity to experience God and contemplate the majesty of his creation.

3. Skiing provides opportunities for prayer as the individual hurtles down the mountain narrowly avoiding collisions with trees and other skiiers. In addition, the skiier is provided with the opportunity to realize the value of  human life as he offers prayers of thanksgiving upon reaching the base.

On the contrary. The book of Exodus says: Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death.

I answer. You will never get me down a mountain on flimsy skis carrying narrow poles.

Human life is a sacred gift from God and should be used for acts which lead to our ultimate end which is perfect happiness.  Skiing is contrary to that end because of the pain and injury which results. If you want to contemplate the beauty of creation you do not have to take your life in your hands or skis.

It is fitting to enjoy bodily delights if they will not cause a injury to the body or the soul. Skiing seems to fail in both respects as it often results in injury and as a result the injury takes the soul away from focusing prayer.

Reply to 1. While it is true that Jesus and Moses ascended mountains nowhere in Scripture does it state that they went barreling down the side of said mountain on flimsy wooden pieces of wood for the sheer joy of it.

Reply to 2. While pleasurable activities are fitting, consider the pain which results afterward. While the proximate end may seem at first to be fulfilled, it in fact leads one away from the remote end.  In addition, how much beauty and majesty can one take in while hurtling oneself down a mountain. It would seem that the beauty of creation would be nothing but a mere blur in passing,

Reply to 3. It is the precise value of human life which makes skiing a unfitting activity. You should not place your life at risk in order to offer thanks for God for saving it. Rather, you should value your body and your life as a gift from God and try to keep it in one piece.

I spent the majority of the day preparing, waiting, and celebrating the ordination of a new bishop. This gave me a lot of time to think about what the episcopate means.

The bishop of the diocese for which I work has become well known for his outspoken and fearless criticims of Catholics who publicly flaunt their disobediance and opposition to Church teaching. This has caused some of love him and others to hate him. In a way, the attention he is recieving makes me happy because it promotes the message of truth, but in another respect it saddens me because it means he stands alone. If bishops spoke out regularly it wouldn’t be news.

I am hesitant to criticize our bishops because I do not know their motivation or the particular pastoral situation they are dealing with, but some recommendations can and should be made as you will see below.

In 379 A.D., St. Ambrose of Milan wrote a letter to the newly appointed bishop Constantius which could have easily been written for the ordination of Bishop Evans. My comments will be written in red.

1. You have undertaken the office of a Bishop, and now, seated in the stern of the Church, you are steering it in the teeth of the waves. (Waves! What an image for the chaos and culture of death we face today) Hold fast the rudder of faith, that you may not be shaken by the heavy storms of this world. The sea indeed is vast and deep, but fear not, for He hath founded it upon the seas, and prepared it upon the floods.6 Rightly then the Church of the Lord, amid all the seas of the world, stands immoveable, built as it were, upon the Apostolic rock; and her foundation remains unshaken by all the force of the raging surge. The waves lash but do not shake it; and although this world’s elements often break against it with a mighty sound, still it offers a secure harbour of safety to receive the distressed. ( We are not to despair, but are to stand firm with the bishop at the helm. Even if it feels there is nothing that can be done, the bishop must trust in God)

2. Yet although it is tossed on the sea, it rides upon the floods; and perhaps chiefly on those floods of which it is said, The floods have lift up their voice. For there are rivers, which shall flow out of his belly, who has received to drink from Christ, and partaken of the Spirit of God. These rivers then, when they overflow with spiritual grace, lift up their voice. There is a river too, which runs down upon His saints like a torrent.7 And there are the rivers of the  flood, which make glad the peaceful and tranquil soul. He that receives, as did John the Evangelist, as did Peter and Paul, the fulness of this stream, lifts up his voice; and like as the Apostles loudly heralded forth to the farthest limits of the globe the Evangelic message, so he also begins to preach the Lord Jesus. Receive to drink therefore of Christ, that your sound may also go forth. (All is not lost because despite the violence of the world, there is a peace found in God. This is where the strength to endure and fight is found.)

3. The Divine Scripture is a sea, containing in it deep meanings, and an abyss of prophetic mysteries; and into this sea enter many rivers. There are Sweet and transparent streams, cool 8 fountains too there are, springing up into life eternal, and pleasant words as an honey-comb.9 Agreeable sentences too there are, refreshing the minds of the hearers, if I may say so, with spiritual drink, and soothing them with, the sweetness of their moral precepts. Various then are the streams of the sacred Scriptures. There is in them a first draught for you, a second, and a last. (Scripture as a sea? Interesting image given paragraph 1. Yes, Scripture is supposed to shake us. One who ready Sacred Scripture and is not shaken either hasn’t read it well, or hasn’t looked inwardly lately. Thankfully, Scripture is also meant to give us peace. The varied streams refresh, restore and shake us.)

4. Gather the water of Christ, that which praises the Lord.10 Gather from many sources that water which the prophetic clouds pour forth.11 He that gathers water from the hills and draws it to himself from the fountains, he also drops down dew like the clouds. Fill then the bosom of your mind, that your ground may be moistened and watered by domestic springs. He who needs and apprehends much is filled, he who hath been filled waters others, and therefore Scripture saith, If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth.12  (Could this suggest that the Bishop is to listen to those around him? Write to your bishops! Let them know, in charity, what you would like them to do and what problems you see. The Bishop is not an all-knowing, all-seeing individual, but he needs the encouragement of the faithful.)

5. Let your discourses then be flowing, let them be clear and lucid; pour the sweetness of your moral arguments into the ears of the people, and sooth them with the charm of your words, that so they may willingly follow your guidance. But if there be any contumacy or transgression in the people or individuals, let your sermons be of such a character as shall move your audience, and prick the evil conscience, for the words of the wise are as goads.13 The Lord Jesus too pricked Saul, when he was a persecutor. And think how salutary the goad was which from a persecutor made him an Apostle, by simply saying, It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.14 (There is to be dialogue ! Just as the bishop is to listen to the concerns of those around him, he has a responsibility to correct and instruct his flock.)

6. There are discourses too like milk, such as Paul fed the Corinthians with; for they who cannot digest stronger food, must have their infant minds nourished with the juice of milk.15 (The bishop is to meet people where they are, but is not to leave them there. Instead, he is to give the appropriate instruction.)

7. Let your addresses be full of understanding. As Solomon says, The 16 lips of the wise are the weapons of the understanding, and in another place, Let your lips be bound up with sense,17 that is, let your discourses be clear and bright, let them flash with intelligence like lightning: let not your address or arguments stand in need of enforcement from without, but let your discourse defend itself, so to speak, with its own weapons, and let no vain or unmeaning word issue out of your mouth. For there is a bandage to bind up the wounds of the soul, and if any one cast it aside, he shews that his recovery is desperate. Wherefore to those who are afflicted with a grievous ulcer administer the oil of your discourse to soften the hardness of their heart, apply an emollient, bind on the ligature of salutary precepts; beware lest by any means you suffer men who are unstable and vacillating in faith or in the observance of discipline, to perish with minds unbraced and vigour relaxed. (No fluffy homilies! Be clear, be direct, be authoritative.)

There is much more to this letter, which I won’t post here, but this letter contains themes touched on in Bishop Tobin’s homily.

Homily of Bishop Thomas J. Tobin
on the occasion of the
Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Robert C. Evans

December 15, 2009

          It is my privilege and pleasure to welcome you to the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul for this happy and historic occasion – the Ordination of our brother Robert C. Evans to the Office of Bishop.

          Welcome first of all to his Eminence, William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore; to our Metropolitan, Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford; and to all the archbishops and bishops who are with us today.

          Welcome to the family of Bishop Evans, especially his dear mom, Lola, and to his many friends, some of whom have traveled a great distance to be here.

          Welcome to the priests, deacons, religious, seminarians and laity of the Diocese of Providence; a special welcome to members of St. Philip Parish and School, where Bishop Evans has served so faithfully; welcome to the leaders of the ecumenical and interfaith community of Rhode Island, as well as the public officials who are here today.

          Thank you all so much for joining us; your presence – each and every one of you – adds to the joy of this occasion.

          Bishop Evans, in my own name and on behalf of all those present today, we extend to you our congratulations, prayers and blessings on this wonderful day in your life. It is, without a doubt, a day of great joy and grace – for you and for the Church. We are proud of you, happy for you and grateful that God has called you to this new ministry, and that you have responded so graciously and generously to His rather persistent invitation.

          My brother, the Scripture readings we have listened to today help to answer the question that is foremost in your mind right now, namely – “What in heaven’s name am I doing here?”

          Well, in fact, you are here because God wants you to be here. Our Heavenly Father has led you to this holy place and to this sacred moment to fulfill the plan for which He created you. Or, as Jesus said to His Apostles at the Last Supper and with words He now repeats to you, “You did not choose me; I chose you.” That, my friend, is why you are here today!

          Those words of the Lord Jesus – “you did not choose me, but I chose you” – bestow great credibility as well as enormous responsibility upon the Apostles and their successors. Nonetheless, as you begin this new and awesome ministry, you can do so with confidence, for Jesus also said to His Apostles, “I no longer call you slaves, but I have called you friends.”

          Strengthening that friendship with Christ is the goal of the entire Christian life, is it not? But it is also a source of consolation and hope for you. If you are a true friend of the Lord, you have nothing to fear as you gaze into the future and respond to the Lord’s promptings in your life.

          In announcing the Year for Priests, Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict explained that as priests, (and surely as bishops) everything we do is oriented to proclaiming Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Christ.  This echoes the words of our Holy Father when he said, “Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is . . . There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ.”

          It is that life-changing, life-giving, hope-inspiring encounter with Christ, dear friend, that has led you to this moment.

          But if the Gospel explains why you are here, the words of the First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah explain what your Ordination as a Bishop will mean for you in the days to come: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.”

          Today as you receive the fullness of Holy Orders, you are anointed with the Holy Spirit and with sacred chrism; you can readily appropriate the words of the prophet unto yourself: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because He has anointed me.”

          Of course this is not the first time you’ve been anointed with the sacred chrism and the Holy Spirit. You were anointed at your Baptism, when you were first joined to Christ and incorporated into His Church; and then again at your Confirmation, when the gifts and grace of the Holy Spirit were strengthened; and then again when you were ordained to the priesthood, when you were set apart to serve the Church “in the person of Christ, the head of the Church.”

          But this anointing today signifies and effects another step in your relationship with Christ and His Church: it challenges you to grow in holiness and deepen your friendship with Christ; and it calls you to renew the enthusiasm and zeal of your service to God’s People. The teaching of the Church emphasizes that, “the title of Bishop is one of service, not of honor” – words not to be taken lightly.

          This anointing with the sacred chrism and the Holy Spirit renews your call to be a priest, prophet and king. While these mandates belong to all of the Christian faithful, and in a specific way to ordained priests, they are particularly heavy burdens placed squarely upon the shoulders of a bishop, burdens as real and tangible as the Book of the Gospels that will soon be held over your head during the Prayer of  Consecration.

          A bishop is called to the fullness of the priesthood. As a priest he is to be a holy man, a man of prayer, a living icon of Christ among His people. As the Ordination Rite explains, a bishop is to “offer sacrifice for the people committed to his care, and to devote himself wholeheartedly to seeking every kind of grace for them from the fullness of Christ’s holiness.”

          Secondly, a bishop is anointed to be a prophet, a man imbued with the Word of God and commissioned to preach that word to the Church and the world – sometimes comforting, sometimes directing, and sometimes challenging – preaching fearlessly and boldly nonetheless, “in season and out of season.”

          Finally a bishop is called to share in the kingship of Christ, that is to form and lead the Church, the holy people of God. Again, the Ordination Rite explains, “As one chosen by the Father to rule over his family, be mindful of the Good Shepherd, who knows his sheep and is known by them, and who did not hesitate to lay down his life for them.”

          To be united to Christ – to be a priest, prophet and king – all this is intended by the anointing with the sacred chrism and the Holy Spirit that you receive here this day.

          The Episcopal Ordination that we celebrate today with such festivity takes place in the context of the beautiful and peaceful Season of Advent, when “we wait with joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” And one of the principal Biblical figures of the Advent
Season, and of course the Christmas Season, is our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary.        

          Devotion to Mary is a hallmark of our Catholic Faith and properly so, for authentic devotion to Mary always leads us to Christ, her son. It was Mary’s obedience that enabled God’s eternal plan of salvation to be fulfilled. It was Mary’s faith and trust that allowed “the Word to become flesh and dwell among us.” How Mary rejoiced at receiving the Eternal Word into her life, and how faithfully she shared her son with the world.

          My brother, at this challenging moment in your life, I encourage you to take to heart and to prayer the example of our Blessed Mother. This holy day marks a new beginning for you, but the future is hidden from your eyes, and the path you will walk is known to God alone. Therefore, like Mary, you must have faith and trust; you must be at peace in accepting God’s plan for you.

          Welcome the Word of God into your heart and soul, and joyfully share Jesus with others.
In your daily ministry to God’s people, point to Jesus and say to them: “Do whatever He tells you.”
If you follow the example of Mary, you will always be able to echo the words of her hymn, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior; the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name.”

          My dear brothers and sisters, in this blessed season of Advent let us recognize the presence of, and renew our faith in “Emmanuel,” the God who is with us. And let us pray that the same God will bless our brother Robert, and bring to completion the good and holy work we do here today.

To the faithful: Hold your bishop to a high standard, but please always remember that in the end the bishop has the final say. It is likely that he has information which you do not have and has a greater understanding of the implications of certain actions. He does need your advice, but any advice and correspondence to him must be done in humility and in charity. Berating a bishop who does not handle a situation in the way you would like is not only rude, but it is disrespectful to the episcopal office. We must also remember that the bishop is a human with feelings! Treat him as you would like to be treated.

Listen to your bishop. Remain faithful to the Church even if you do not understand particular teachings. I know that if I disagree a teaching, then either I don’t understand it well enough or I am wrong. The bishop is the successor to the apostles, so when he speaks it is as though the apostles speak.

We must also be aware that the bishop cannot solve problems which he doesn’t know about. If you see something going on that shouldn’t be, let him know! Don’t talk about how horrible it is that Such-and-Such is happening or that So-and-So is doing something wrong. If you sit back and think that someone else will tell him, you are probably wrong.

Finally, the bishop is steering the ship through the raging storm. It is easy to get blinded by the waves and so lose sight of Christ. Pray for your bishops and make sure they know it! St. Ambrose wrote about the rivers which flow from Christ. Make sure your bishop experiences the river and not only the waves. So often, the only time people write to their bishop is to complain. Your kind note could be the peaceful river which allows him to focus his eyes on Christ.

Throughout my many years of being educated, one of the most frustrating things I have encountered is teachers who know less about their topic than me.

It happened to me in CCD and it has happened to me several times in college. The way I see it, I pay good money to get educated, I don’t pay to teach or correct the mistakes of an incompetent teacher.

These teachers come in several sorts:
1) those who don’t know and know they don’t know
2) those who don’t know and think they know
3) those who know and still teach errors.

At various times I have had teachers of all three sorts. The first sort I pity. They have most likely been placed in a situation where they don’t want to be or a place they are unprepared for.

The second sort frustrates me. They really think the dreck they say is pearls of wisdom. They can’t figure out why I don’t hang on their every word.

The third sort angers me. They know the truth and intentionally teach the opposite for one reason or another.

While all three are dangerous, the last two are the worst. For the most part, the first type is the most likely to be open to fraternal correction. The second will not, and the third will see anyone giving correction as the opposition.

My 8th grade CCD teacher was of that third sort. He seemed to be on a mission to destroy any faith we had in the Church.

He told us about how the pastor used parish funds to buy brand new cars and expensive clothes. He presented the bishop as a dictator who abused his power and had no faith.

Finally he told us that Jesus didn’t want the Church, He wanted us to come to Him directly.

I saw my classmates getting more and more intrigued by the fanciful stories and I watched as they began to turn against the Church.

He was the first teacher I ever confronted. One day I couldn’t take it any longer and I told the teacher he was wrong and his stories were lies. Then I told he that I was going to go to the pastor.

That was when he threatened to tell the pastor that I was a troublemaker and was telling lies about him because I had gotten in trouble in class. Apparently, he thought he would be believed over me because he was older.

I walked out of the classroom, out of the school, and over to the rectory. I returned a few minutes later with the pastor who told the teacher to leave immediately and never come back. His final words to me were, “You think you won, but I will destroy you”.

Now I am in charge of a religious ed program and people, including my boss, don’t understand why I spot check classrooms. The reality is that I place the kids in the hands of the teachers and will most likely never know if something wrong is being taught otherwise. It would be great if every teacher was qualified and trustworthy but much of the time we take who we can get.

So, I watch and try to correct errors and educate my teachers. To my 8th grade CCD teacher: Thanks for opening my eyes to the importance of good catechesis and for inspiring me to fight those who attempt to denegrate God’s Holy Church. Christ will always be victorious and I am on His team.

A few weeks ago I was speaking with a priest who informed me that he has not taken a weekend off in 11 years because he is unable to get coverage for the Sunday Masses at his parish. Now, I know that some may retort, “Well, how many days during the week has he taken off”, but that is not the point of this post nor do I know or care about the answer to that question. 

The reality is that when I was growing up most parishes had two priests and before that many parishes had three and even four priests in a parish. The rectory where I work has five bedrooms! Now our priests are sometimes forced to choose between their well deserved personal time off and the care of their parishioners.

That leads me to this reflection on rest. We live in an age where time is money. We invest in gadgets to increase our productivity, we are constantly connected to the internet. People take work cellphones and notebook computers on vacation with them. It is common to see people working on the beach and on vacation. The fear of losing productivity is constant on the minds of some individuals. Many employers too, seem to expect their employees to be available at all times. Yet, these same people often fail to attend Mass while on vacation.

For many in ecclesial ministry, both clergy and laity, the idea of time off can seem contrary to the idea of vocation, but it is healthy and necessary. I remember feeling guilty for taking time off from work for vacations or family events. Retreats are ok, but leisure time can feel like a waste of time. After all, Jesus never took a day off…or did he.

Jesus modeled for us the way to go on vacation.  In Mark 14:13, Jesus tried to get away, but the crowds followed him. Jesus could have told the crowds to go away, after all, he was tired, on vacation, overwhelmed and mourning, but instead he preached.

We all need time to refresh ourselves and care for our needs, but that doesn’t mean we can neglect our vocation or fail to care for those we encounter who need our help. Although we can go on vacation from our day to day ministry, we can never go on vacation from vocation or the practice of our faith. Still, it is important to take time for physical and spiritual refreshment.

Jesus also made a point to take time out for prayer: a sort of private retreat. We also need time devoted to prayer, especially when we are busy serving. We can’t give give give and do do do all the time. Active ministry is no substitute for a substantial prayer life. A Christian can’t get far on a superficial prayer life. Ministry which is not rooted in prayer is ministry which is also not rooted in Christ and as a result ends up not really being ministry at all.

Please remember in prayer all those priests who, like Jesus, cannot get time off and all those who see vacations as time away from God.

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