From Father Ken's Quill

Father Ken Halbur is the Pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Parish in Ankeny, Iowa and these posts are letters written in the church’s weekly bulletin.

October Is Respect Life Month

October is respect life month in the Church. When we as a Church talk about being pro-life, that phrase has many different aspects to it. It is pretty common knowledge that the Catholic Church is a strong leader in the Pro-Life movement, which goes well beyond the work to end abortions. Protection for the unborn is one of the primary missions of the Pro-Life group because it is the first stage of life, but not the only one. Each year, over 900,000 children are aborted in the U.S. alone, that is a staggering number and sadly in Washington DC, 38% of pregnancies end in abortion. It is estimated that one out of four women have had an abortion and we need to respond to them with forgiveness and love. When we talk about being pro-life in our Church it is more than just being anti-abortion, it is about supporting life from conception to natural death. This means that we should strive for the dignity of life from the time that the child is conceived to the time that we naturally die. This means that we should also not support euthanasia, no matter what light it is cast in, it is sometimes called “dignity in death” because some would argue that it is better to die than to suffer and that the taking of a life over allowing them to suffer is better for the person or even the family. This also applies to the death penalty, within the United States, have an ability to keep those who have committed a major crime in prison. Capital punishment is not supported by the Church for multiple reason, first and foremost, there is a small chance, that the person convicted is not guilty, but it also does not allow for a conversion of heart by the person who is guilty, and most of the time, capital punishment is retaliation and not justice.

We sometimes separate social justice and pro-life as two different and separate groups, but they are intertwined. If we profess to support life, we also need to help and provide support for those who are living, if we support social justice, then we need to have the first rule, which is life. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves and then explained that all people are our neighbors, from the child conceived with a disability, to the child conceived on a hook-up, to the immigrant, to the prisoner on death row, to the elderly person in a nursing home or those on their death beds. Being pro-life in the Catholic Church also means providing for the needs of the other in many varied ways, which is why the Church provides food and water to those in need, we as a parish are supporting this effort with Meals for the Heartland. The Catholic Church feeds millions of people throughout the world as a part of our supporting life efforts. It also provides health care for millions. This is what it means to be Pro-Life. Pray for all of the pro-life ministries that we support throughout the world.

God Bless,
Fr. Ken

Worry

How often do you get caught up in the things that are going on, things that you have no control over? We live in a time in which you can pull out of your pocket or purse a device that can instantly give you information from just about anywhere in the world with the click of a thumb.

I have a friend who has banned his mother from watching the Weather Channel because she used to sit and watch it most of the day and worry about the weather in other countries and regions. The weather is something that she could not control but she worried about it anyway. While there are times that we really wish that we could control the weather, but we cannot. We spend so much time stressing and worrying about things that we shouldn’t because they are things that are not in our hands, but in God’s. This is something that I need to listen to myself, I constantly worry about the things that are going on in this parish, even though I know that God will provide! I, by my own nature, tend to worry and I need to keep reminding myself that worry steals from hope and peace and peace of tomorrow, and hope and trust in God overcomes worry.

When we allow ourselves to get caught up in those things that may never happen, we forget to concentrate on the people and things that are going on right now. When we get stressed about things, we often take it out on people that are around us, most especially those that are closest to us. This is something that we can work on and that will help us with the worry. Even in our busy lives, we can take some time to pray, pray for calmness and peace in our hearts. We can often look to the lives of the saints and wonder how they were so calm in their lives, even though they often had good reason to worry. Many of the saints were persecuted for their faith, and some even by leaders of the Church. Mother Teresa was a woman of great faith and trust in God, she is quoted as saying “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today. Let us begin.” When I begin to worry about things myself, I remember that if we trust in God everything will work out.

Padre Pio was another saint who had some incredible struggles in his life, but he was also one who had a great saying “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” And also “My past, O Lord, to Your mercy; my present, to Your love; my future to Your providence.” My advice is to Pray, hope, work to change those things you can, and trust that God will take care of the rest. If I were to add to Mother Teresa’s quote, I would say something like we remember the beauty and good things of the past, we plan for the things in the future, but we live for today.

God Bless,
Fr. Ken

A Special Day

This Friday, something will happen that has not happened since 1968, a bishop will be ordained in the Diocese of Des Moines. Just to remind you, the bishops since, were ordained a bishop before being assigned to our Diocese.

The ordination of bishop is sometimes called the ordination to the fullness of the priesthood because there are three “levels” of ordination. The first is the diaconate, when a man is ordained to become a deacon, he is ordained into the service of Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles realized that they could not do everything, the teaching as well as the service to others, so guided by the Holy Spirit, they ordained seven men to help with the service at table. The next level, is the priesthood itself, but within the ordination of the priest, there is still not a fullness that happens. There are still a few things that a priest cannot do. For example, a priest cannot ordain at all, he cannot even ordain a deacon. He also cannot validly confirm someone unless the bishop allows it. Within the Diocese of Des Moines, the bishops have given a blanket authority to confirm someone at the Easter Vigil, but only those who were not baptized Catholics, that still has to have special permission given. All of the faculties (abilities) of the priest come through the ordination of the chief shepherd of the diocese which is the bishop. The next level and final level of ordination is the bishop himself. This is the highest level of ordination, all other titles are honorary ones only and men are not ordained to be Pope, they are elevated to it.

Within the Church, we have other special titles like monsignor, which is an honorary title that is given to a priest who has done special service to the diocese and is only given at certain times. Another title you will hear is Arch-bishop, and that is given to a bishop of an Arch-Diocese, which is a diocese of special significance, the Arch-Diocese for Des Moines is Dubuque. You will also hear the title of Cardinal, and this is given to bishops of diocese of special significance, the closest Cardinal is Cardinal Cupich of Chicago.

This Friday will be a special day for the Diocese of Des Moines as well as for a particular family within this parish. At St. Francis of Assisi Church, we will see Bishop-Elect William Joensen ordained to the Order of the Episcopacy, along with this, he will be installed as the tenth bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines, and our new shepherd. During this time, I ask a favor from all of you, and that is to keep Bishop-elect William, his family, Bishop Pates, and all the people of the Diocese in your prayers. This is an exciting time for our entire diocese and we are looking forward to the leadership of the soon to be Bishop William Joensen.

God Bless,
Fr. Ken

Adoration

This week was September 11th, it is a day that will bring an emotional reaction to many because of the attacks in 2001. But there are many other significant things that have happened on that date. It is thought that the attackers chose the September 11th date because of the significance of the defeat of the Ottoman empires armies on September 11, 1683 while trying to invade Vienna, Switzerland. Although this date is significant for American history, there is something else that is important for the prayer life of the Catholic Church that happened.

In 1226 the first recorded practice of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was held at regular parishes. Previously it had been a long-held practice not in public, but in the privacy of a number of monasteries. This is a practice that is still held around the world, including St. Luke’s parish. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or often just called Adoration is a wonderful time that we have to just be with Jesus.

I am sometimes asked about what we should do during Adoration, and the simple answer is to pray, and there are many ways that we can pray. From just sitting and trying to listen to where God is leading us, to praying some of the memorized wrote prayers. I often pray the Liturgy of the Hours during Adoration or even the Rosary, but that is up to each of us. Something that I really recommend during this time is to read and pray over the scripture readings for the upcoming weekend, it is a great way to be prepared for them even if there is some distraction when they are being read at Mass.

Here at St. Luke’s we have Adoration on Thursday evenings after the 5:30 Mass and we also have it on Saturday morning during Confessions from 9:00 to 10:00, and we also have it on the first Friday of the month from after the 7:45 Mass until 8:00 pm. If you have never had the experience of spending time with the Blessed Sacrament in this way, I would highly encourage it, it can be a great way to reset or really enhance your prayer life. For most people who lead busy lives like we do, it can be a challenge to just sit and listen to God until you get used to it. We often want to be “doing” something and just sitting praying does not always feel like we are doing something. For someone who is beginning this devotional practice, I would recommend starting with bringing something, like Holy Scripture, a rosary, a book of prayers, or some other devotional book to get started. After a few times of the quiet time with Jesus, most people begin to really like to just be. I myself do a combination of other prayers along with mediation during Adoration. I would recommend taking some time to spend with Jesus in this way, even if you cannot spend a whole hour, even 15 minutes would be a great start, and then you can build from there, it truly is a wonderful way to pray.

God bless,
Fr. Ken

Miracles Still Happen Each And Every Day

In my office I have a number of pictures; one in particular is one that I took when I was at this small church on the Sea of Galilee. The church is called the Church of the Primacy of Peter. It is thought to be the place that Christ cooked breakfast for the Apostles after the resurrection and he asked Peter if he loved him and then told him to “feed my sheep.” Jesus was sending the Apostles out to continue the work that He had started. Jesus continues to do the same today and asks us to go out into the world and feed his sheep. Attached to the side of this church was a small plaque and it has a quote on it that states: “The deeds and miracles of Jesus are not actions of the past. Jesus is waiting for those who are still prepared to take risks at His word because they trust His power utterly.” I took a picture of this quote and framed it because I thought that it was quite meaningful.

We sometimes think that the things that Jesus did only happened in the past. That He was just a good teacher who told us to be nice to each other and that was it. While He does not have His own physical hands on this world anymore, He uses the hands that we have to continue to perform many different miracles. The actions are still through the power of Christ, but they are also through the working of other people. Just look at what can happen through people who have the courage to follow Christ simply because they trust in Him. There are literally thousands of accounts of the saints doing wonderful things because they love Christ.

One of the great examples of this is through Agnes, a simple Albanian sister who wanted to serve the poorest of the poor in the streets of India. Mother Teresa was someone who could have continued her relatively comfortable life as a nun with the Sisters of Loreto. She could have continued to be the principal of Saint Mary’s school in Calcutta, but she heard her “call within a call” as she called it. Instead, she convinced her superior to allow her to leave the order and begin a new one. She felt that God was calling her to serve the poorest of the poor those who were the “unwanted, unloved, and uncared for” and she did. It took a lot of courage to go out into those streets to serve those who no one else wanted to care for. Mother Teresa trusted in the power of Christ working through her and still work miracles.

There are many other things in life that are not easy to do and we may not have the strength ourselves to follow through with them, but Christs deeds and actions are not only things that happened when He bodily walked the earth 2,000 years ago, the miracles still happen each and every day. Are we willing to take risks for Christ because we trust in His power and not simply our own?

God bless,
Fr. Ken

Pop Quiz

As we are at the beginning of the school year, I am reminded that the words “Pop Quiz” can bring panic in some students, and they maybe even bring a flash back to some of us who have been out of school for a while. When I was in my last year of seminary, one of the professors took joy in walking past a fourth theology students and ask them to “recite the prayer of absolution.” His rational was it is a prayer that every priest must know immediately and always because you never know when someone will ask for a confession. I myself have heard confessions in a car, in a park, a hospital, and in an airport. The reasoning behind the pop quiz is because there are some things that we just need to be prepared for at any time and any place.

Many times, when I am running errands, while wearing my priest collar, I have had people come up to me and tell me that they haven’t been to church in a while, or that seeing me reminds them that they need to go to confession. The police and military train for a lot of different situations that may or may not ever happen, why, because there is a possibility that they might and they want to be ready for them. The same should be true for our faith life, what if the pop quiz we run into is the end of our life? What if the pop quiz is to answer for the things we have done or not done in our lives? Would we be ready for the judgment of God today if something bad happens? This is something that we do not often want to think about, but so many times Jesus reminds us that we must be ready because at an unknown hour the Lord will come.

To make sure that we are ready for a pop quiz in school, we study and make sure that we know the information. To make sure that we are ready for a pop quiz in our work life, we learn our job and make sure that we are ready for the situations that we may run into at work. The big question is what are we doing to make sure that we are ready for the hour that we may not know about when the master of the house returns as Jesus tells us. The good thing is that we can be ready for that pop quiz that will come to us at the end of our lives and there are many different ways to make sure that we are. Some of these ways are to do a good daily examination of conscience in which we pray about the good and bad things we have done each and every day, to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation often, to pray each and every day, to be a part of the celebration of the Sunday Mass, and to be that follower of Christ that He calls us to be. If the Lord comes for us today will we be ready?

God Bless,
Fr. Ken

Beginning Another School Year

It is hard to believe that school started last week. The first day is always challenging, trying to get them where they need to be and get them calmed down and ready to learn again. This year, with the changes in staff and administration, there are a lot of new faces around. As someone who has been at a Catholic school for many years, I have seen the first day meltdowns, the pictures in front of the school, and many other things that go along with starting school. Each of the children that we serve are different, sometimes we run into those children who love to go to school and those who just do not want to go and would rather stay home playing all day, but parents tell them that school is good for them and that they have to go. Along with this, sometimes I also hear that parents do not bring their children to Mass because the children don’t want to go, they would rather stay at home and sleep, so they let them. What is the difference? School gives them an education to get through this life, but the Mass gives them an education to get to eternal life. We bring our kids to school even if they do not want to go because we know that it is good for them, we should also do the same with church. We should take them to Mass every weekend even if they make some noise, and on the other side we should also be aware that with kids at Mass, they sometimes make some noise. We should be a joyous example for our children in the practice of the faith. Being a person who wants to go to worship God, and to be with others that are on the journey to heaven is a wonderful thing. When our children ask us questions about the Mass or about our faith, we should help them to find the answer even if we do not know it. This is something that will not only help our children’s faith, but it will help us with our own faith life. God doesn’t want us to have blind faith, but as St. Augustine talks about Fides et Ratio or faith and reason. The Church has a reason for everything we teach and how wonderful it is that we have an opportunity to be able to look it up and find it. We all want our children to be the best people that they can be and with the help of God, they will be, but we need to help them to see that gift that God is for them, buy showing them our own love for God. Take the time to pray with them and also to bring them to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist so that we can all be drawn close to God, and when we take that time to get close to Him, we will see that joy and light that He has to offer us.

God bless,
Fr. Ken

Learning From Change

As I write this article, I am recovering from my surgery, and one of the interesting things is how you have to adapt how you do things differently. With the use of only one arm for a while, I am trying to get used to doing some simple and basic things much differently, one of the interesting things that is challenging is just getting dressed in the morning (go ahead and try putting on a pair of socks or a belt only using one arm.) As I have been out of the office (mostly) I have been reading some from The Life of Theresa of Jesus by Theresa of Avila. Her life reminds me that I need to be humble and ask for help and not to try and do everything myself, which tends to be the way I do things, not because I have a need to do everything myself, but in my mind, I do not want to bother others. I am grateful for the meals that have been provided and they were all very good. I am also grateful for the help that my parents have done in getting me back and forth to appointments as well as taking care of me right after the surgery, it is wonderful that they are so close now.

Speaking of changes in how things I do things, I am sure that you have noticed a few minor changes in how we do things. As St. Luke’s grows, it will be constantly undergoing many changes, some of them will be small and barely noticeable, some will affect many. It is not my intention to make many major changes, if I can help it, but some do need to be done because of circumstances. One of the big ones coming up is the change of the day of the School Mass. When Mrs. Hade and I were looking at the schedule, we realized that if we kept Mass on Friday for the school, the kids would miss 9 Friday Masses because of the schedule, but if we moved it to Wednesday, we would only miss 4 and most of those would be around holidays anyway. We then brought it to the School Board and Parish Council to discuss it, and they thought that it would be good. So, beginning on August 28th and there following, Wednesday Mass will be at 8:30 with the St. Luke’s School students instead of 7:45 and the Friday Mass beginning on the 30th will be at 7:45. When I was in Creston, I loved seeing the school kids participating in the Mass with doing the readings and other ministries. I got so many comments from people amazed at how good the kids did in front of a group, and I am sure that it will be the same here. I know that I speak for Mrs. Hade and myself in saying we are so looking forward to beginning the school and RE year!

Fr. Ken

Going Phishing?

Have you ever gone through your email junk mail folder and looked at some of the titles of emails that are being sent? Sometimes they are humorous, sometimes disgusting, sometimes they are so bad that you just wonder who would fall for some of these scams. I personally have received hundreds of offers to help someone process millions of dollars from dying or deceased relatives in Africa. Being that my email address is part of a church account, I also get messages stating that someone has left millions to be given away to a church and all I have to do is to contact them and we would get lots of money.

A majority of computer viruses come from following the links in emails, even if they seem like they come from people we know. The fact is that we still receive hundreds of them a week, because it is easy to send them, it costs the sender very little, and they sometimes work. The whole reason that they work is because they appeal to our pride and desire for something more. The senders of the emails attack our pride and desire from different ways, some from the material aspect, “all you have to do is to respond to this email and I will deposit a portion of the $25 million that my husband left me into your bank account.” Some of these emails tug at our body image, “you can lose weight or enhance your body if you follow this link.” Some work at our emotions, they ask if you are lonely and need a friend or a “friend”, just respond and the most beautiful person in the world will come running after you. Some of them tug at our ego that says that we can have more friends or having people follow us online. Each of us has a soft spot for something or has a strong desire for something that we would really like to have.

Around a parish, here especially, money is a big thing. With lots of money, we could pay off the debt to the building, pay off the ADA, hire more staff, increase salaries, add on to the building, buy more supplies, the list is endless. All of us want to be happy and successful each in different ways and these emails go after those desires in different ways. We have a natural desire to be happy and getting something off the internet is not going to help us to be happy, it may bring a short-term pleasure, but it will never really bring us true happiness. We can be truly happy by following our faith in Jesus Christ and by fostering those good relationships on earth that can draw us closer to God, that is something that we can work on in our prayer life and it is something that we cannot receive via email.

Fr. Ken

Is Technology Good or Evil

We live in interesting times, it is often called the Electronic or the Internet Age, because we are so connected and so attached to our electronic devices. I am one who is guilty of this as well. I rarely go anywhere without my cell phone, which means that I have access to people and the Internet almost everywhere I go. I even find myself complaining when the service is not very good. Even with that our access to technology and connectedness is not always that bad, it is just like any other tool that we have, it can be used for good, or it can be used for evil. You can use your phone to look for seedy material or to launch personal attacks on people or, you could use it to look up information on the saints or for prayer help. In many ways praying in the digital age can be easier. So, if you see me sitting in church with my phone out, I am not texting, playing games, or checking out websites, I am using it to assist my prayer life. There are many different applications that you can download that can assist you in prayer. I myself use a number of different applications on my phone or tablet to pray. One of those is called ibreviary in which I can pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which is a prayer that priests and religious promise to pray every day. I also use my phone to look at and to meditate on the Mass readings for the day and weekend with an app called imissal and another called “Laudate” this app has the Mass readings, links to the books of the bible, and hundreds of common and not so common prayers. I also have an audio version of the Bible on my phone and on long drives, I will sometimes listen to Holy Scripture instead of the radio. We often will rant against the use of technology and in some ways how it is harming our personal relationships, especially when we spend time on our electronic devices instead of talking to people, but we also have a greater ability to keep in touch with our friends and family that are far away. I have had a number of people that use either an app or a list to take into confession so that they can remember what they want to confess as they sit in the confessional. And just a side note: no, you cannot go to confession via a text well… you can confess whatever you want, however you cannot receive absolution via text. We often carry our phones with us and if we have these apps on our phones, it gives us a wonderful opportunity to pray in times and places that we don’t even think about, like in a restaurant while we are waiting for our food. As we live in such a busy society, we sometimes need to be creative in how we pray, but keep doing it!

Fr. Ken

Settling In

The summer just seems to be flying by, and there is so much going on this summer. With the move, I keep having people ask if I am settling in here. I am, and there is still so much I need to learn about being here and serving everyone here. This week however, I will be taking a break from things, Thursday the 1st I will be having surgery on my rotator cuff because I tore a tendon. This means that I will be out of the office for a few days, and will not be at the Masses next weekend, but I will be available sometime in a week or so. My plan is to be back pretty quick, but I may not be fully engaged for a little while, but I will be involved.

Since I will only have use of one arm for 5-6 weeks, I have asked that the deacons serve at every weekend Mass for a couple of months. This will give me some help at the altar, and I may be asking for some help with other things as well. I will also need to be gone a little more often over the next few months so that I can do my physical therapy. Fr. Amadeo and Fr. Downey will also be helping out around here as needed, they also may cover a Mass each weekend for the next few months just to help out. It will work out just fine. Keep me in your prayers this Thursday.

Something else big happened last week, we now have a new bishop named, Bishop elect William Joensen and he will be ordained a bishop in September at St. Francis of Assisi Church. I ask that you also keep Bishop Pates and Bishop-Elect Joensen in your prayers as they transition. Officially on July 18th, Bishop Pates is no longer the bishop of the Diocese of Des Moines, so you may have noticed (if I remembered to do it), that we skip the line about praying for the bishop during Mass. This is because we officially do not have an ordinary (bishop) of the diocese from the time the bishop’s resignation is accepted until the time in which the new bishop is ordained and or installed. Bishop-elect Joensen will be ordained and installed as the 10th bishop of Des Moines on September 27th at St Francis of Assisi church. This will be a wonderful day for the diocese, so keep the date open so that you can join the people of the diocese in welcoming him.

I know that this has been a summer of many changes here at St. Luke’s, but in the end, we will be stronger. Keep praying for all of us here at the parish, as well as all of the people of the diocese.

Fr. Ken