Friday, April 25, 2014

Lenten Sacrifice, Easter Joy (Talk at UNK Newman Center)

Whatever the quality of the content, this talk is somewhat screwy due to the presenter's failures. I have wretched eye-sight, and while I make my font really big on my phone for reading my notes, I was squinting and misreading the quotes off a website for the Everyman's Way of the Cross and the Hebrews 2 quote—and that one was made worse because I was reading the verse off a site whose translation doesn't break the sentence at the verse, and so I was reading/rephrasing as I went. Finally, my "in-talk memory" is junk compared to memory when prepping, so I kind of murdered the final JP2 quote the first time through. Moral of the story: I should have copied and pasted all these to Notes beforehand. Grr... Oh well, it was a fun time. Thanks UNK Newman!

(To download this file instead of streaming it, click here and then right-click the "8.9 MB" underneath the words "Apple Lossless Audio" in the lower right of the new webpage.)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

What Does a Messiah Do? (Easter 2014)

On the one hand, I don't like to preach super-long on Holy Week Masses since there's so much other stuff going on. On the other hand, on Easter you know you're only getting some of the people once or twice a year. Consequently, I was willing to go 12+ minutes today. The topic might be summarized as, "What is the number one characteristic of a Messiah, and how does that change how we should understand this whole 'resurrection' thingy?" Deep, huh?

This kind of springboards off of last year's very apologetic homily on faith and reason and the resurrection, but its main point isn't what the Apostles would or wouldn't say after Jesus died on Good Friday. The main point is what God did was something that overturned all expectations and vindicated the claims of his Son, changing how we see God and understand human life. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Priests, Feet, and Good Friday

The different little tweaks to the liturgy during Holy Week have a teaching value. Tonight I reflect on the odd little option in the Roman Missal for the priest to venerate the Cross sans shoes. It actually can teach us a lot.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Contraception: A Homily Reprised

Last week, Bishop Conley released his first pastoral letter as bishop of Lincoln. He asked that all priests in the diocese preach on the topic of contraception that weekend. He then kind of "crashed his own party" by coming to Doniphan that Saturday to confer Confirmation on our kids, but he allowed me to preach on it at all the Masses this weekend instead. 

Rather than repeat much of what the Bishop put in his letter, I recycled a homily on the topic that I had given two years ago at the beginning of the HHS mandate debate. I don't think I said so in the audio below, but at the other Masses I mentioned that it is good to get a variety of approaches to the topic. For example, I focus a lot on context and reason, Bishop Conley focuses on the heart and on sacrificial love, Bishop Flavin before him focused on moral authority. 

I cut it down a bit this weekend (from 31 minutes to 24 minutes), but otherwise it is basically the same as the previous. Below is the chart that I reference in the homily, then the link to the recorded homily, and then the text that I (somewhat) followed today. 

(To download this file instead of streaming it, click here and then right-click the "6.2 MB" underneath the words "Apple Lossless Audio" in the lower right of the new webpage.)

Hopefully by now you all know that the Bishop released his first pastoral letter last week— either because he mentioned it in the homily at Confirmation or because the letter was the entire center section of the Southern Nebraska Register last weekend. The Bishop also asked us priests to preach on the topic, but because he was here, he said I could wait till this weekend.
The purpose of his letter was to give a pastoral look at the always-contentious topic of contraception. We’ve seen the Catholic Church’s perpetual teaching on abortion, sterilization, and contraception be put newly in the spotlight by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and by the Health and Human Services mandate that requires Catholic institutions, like schools and hospitals, to go against their consciences and provide these for insured employees. But in some sense this legal battle is good, because, for years, Catholics have turned a blind eye to the topic, and bishops and priests have preferred to not tread in the controversial topic. We can act as if it’s just our religious freedom being infringed, but unless we Catholics understand the teaching, and can make a decent argument for why we believe this, we will appear to be just deluded anti-science zealots who cling to an ancient Puritanical morality.
         Fear not about your kids here; my language is carefully chosen and veiled for this. And anyone who can understand it, has the right to know it. About words: I’m going to use the phrase “open to life” to mean the opposite of contraception, which would include both using Natural Family Planning to make good, prudent decisions and also simply saying “Ok, God, whatever You think.” Also, I don’t see this homily as a final answer; I see this as the beginning of a conversation. 
         And finally about my approach: This is a journey of the heart. I won’t be quoting Scripture passages; I will be ignoring the Catechism. This is between two people, you and me. Any person who has even just an inkling that there’s purpose in the universe should be able to hear these words and reason with us. In fact, the best resource I offer people is a book by two Protestants: The Open Embrace, by Sam & Bethany Torode. There is no “The Pope says; the Catechism says” here. This is a couple saying what your heart already knows.

         Let’s take a look at the history of contraception. Previous to the 20th century, all major Christian denominations considered it immoral. And contrary to what you’ll hear maybe in a pop history, it wasn’t because they wanted lots of people for the farming and for bulking up their church’s membership. No, it was because it was seen as a great invitation to promiscuity. No risk, no commitment. Adulterers would think they could get a free vacation from their spouse; those not yet married could have a test-drive. All Christian denominations rejected it, and most other religions agreed. Heck, go read any of Gandhi’s twenty-seven quotes against it. But in 1930, the Church of England decided at its every-ten-years conference at Lambeth to allow it: only in marriage, only with good reasons, only if not for “motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.” It seemed the perfect middle solution: no fooling around, only for good motives, no selfishness. But of course, we’ve all got a good reason. I teach high school: everybody has an excuse. We can imagine the conversation some night:
Do you realize we met five years ago tonight? We were so…spontaneous, back then. Catch my drift?” 
“Yes…but lemme see…six, seven, eight, nine…nope that could put us in June, and we’re set for the Lake Country in June.” 
“True…so this would be a good reason to skip the pregnant part.” 
And within a generation, the Catholic Church stood alone among churches, as every other church agreed to Lambeth’s “selfless” principles.
         Things got interesting in the 1960s. Pope John XXIII had called the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control in 1960 when Dr. John Rock, a Catholic OB/GYN and a daily Mass-goer put the final stamp on what we call “the Pill”. Now, we must try to see where Rock was coming from and why people got their hopes up. The question was not, “Will the Church allow contraception?,” because assuredly it would not. You can’t rewrite Sacred Tradition in the moral branches anymore than you can proclaim that God is a Quadrinity in the dogmatic branches. The question was whether the Pill is a contraceptive. Rock had actually based the Pill on Pius XII’s logic that it was fine for couples to have recourse to the non-fertile times of the month for child-spacing, et cetera. His pill was just extending that timeframe to the full month. In 1958, Pius XII had even said it was ok to use something like the later Pill for reasons that were exclusively medical—an approval that stands to this day. Pius had died that same year and John XXIII died five years later. In 1966, Pope Paul VI expanded the Commission to 58 people: doctors, married couples, theologians…and a 46-year old archbishop whom the Communists wouldn’t let out of Poland—Karol Wojtyła, the future Pope John Paul II. It was the peak of the 1960s: “The Summer of Love”—1967, and “The Summer of Chaos”—1968. Much had changed in ten years, and now the majority of the Commission wanted open approval for all contraception. The future Pope John Paul was on the side of minority, but he differed from some of the objectors in that the ideas he mailed to Paul VI weren’t focused on human bodies, but on human hearts. In the end, Pope Paul went against the majority, and he took a few—but not all—of Karol Wojtyła’s ideas, and wrote Humanae Vitae, translated “Of Human Life”. 
         The year was 1968: the Tet Offensive, Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, the Chicago Democratic Convention Riots, the Black Power salute at the Mexico City Olympics…and group of cool, smart young priests and theologians were waiting to launch their own revolution in Washington DC. At Catholic University of America, 34-year old Fr. Charles Curran and his associates had gotten an embargoed copy of Humanae Vitae, read it, and already had a biting response ready to go in front of a press conference before most bishops had even read the papal encyclical. It was like Obama vs. McCain in 2008 or Kennedy vs. Nixon in 1960: one side looked vigorous, smart, modern; the other didn’t. It was a PR disaster for the Pope and the bishops, and Fr. Curran’s brand of theological opinion became the American norm as he took over as Theology Chair at what is theoretically the Pope’s own university here in America.
         Meanwhile, Catholics in America were all too ready to hear why the Pope was wrong. The Civil Rights Movement had easily transitioned into Women’s Rights and then more radical feminist movements. One of foundation stones of radical feminism was safe and accessible contraception. Now women’s futures could be planned without fear of fickle nature. Now women could double the income for their families. Now women could be as ruthless in the boardrooms as men, and as rude in the bedrooms. In less than five more years, “perfect equality” in America would be established as Roe vs. Wade was made law of the land. At last, no woman would ever carry a burden she didn’t want, no child ever grow up unloved, marriages would be strengthened by only having children on their terms, divorce numbers would go down, and per household income would go up. The American Dream was secured. 

Oh, wait, no it wasn’t. Actually only one of those happened—women planning their futures more easily—and some research has shown that even that hasn’t created more happiness for them in the long run. 
         Why? Why did things go amiss, even in the midst of loving Christian marriages? What was it that Archbishop Wojtyła recognized and Pope Paul feared? The key is recognizing that human beings aren’t like the dogs we spay or the steers we snip. Human love runs differently. Take two dogs that have mated. If she later sees him mating with another female, you’ll never see her run to her mom bawling “Mom, he told me he loved me.” We’re different. We would go bawl. The human heart wasn’t made for half-hearted love. On some level, we truly can’t bear it. We are woundable—woundable because our conjugal relations have a very strong connection to a choice to love. If someone stops choosing to love you, then that past shared bliss becomes an ache and a wound.
         What the future John Paul II saw was that it wasn’t about bodies and body parts. No, the heart was the real treasury of right and wrong —and the battlefield of those two— and our bodies are how we express what’s inside. And he started by saying that in our hearts the real opposite of Love isn’t hate, it’s Use. If I hate you, well, “So long, get out of here, I don’t care”. But if I use you, I keep you around for what I can get. And he defined Love, as we still do today, as “to make a true gift of yourself”. Love = to Give, but then to Use = to Take. The things that drive both of these come next. What allows you to Give, to Love, to take the chance, is Trust —trust you’ll accept this love and love me back. Its opposite, which gets people to Take and Use, is Grasp. I can’t trust, I can’t wait, I want what I want, and so I grasp. So you see the next one already: What I Want over here vs. What’s Good For You on this side. Likewise, Love and Trust think of the Other person and see them as an End in themself, while Use thinks of one’s Self and sees the other as a Means to my own happiness. Put them all together and you get: seeing someone as a Person vs. seeing them as an Object.

         With that as background, let’s look first at contraception used outside of marriage. First, consider what kinds of relationships these are: the hook-up, the affair, the just-taking-a-test-drive living together couple. The whole reason they are kept not open to life is because there’s a lack of commitment. It’s a nice “you get what you want; I get what I what.” The reason they don’t want to risk new life is that they know this is Using. A contracepting woman is basically seen by men like a rental car: all of the convenience, none of the obligation. Perhaps you’ve heard of men chiding a buddy who’s dated or lived with a woman a long time but not proposed to her, and he quips to his buddies: “Hey, why buy the cow if the milk is free?” That’s a horrible worldview. And you know what? It is the contraceptive that makes sure that the milk is always free. Think about that. Contraception is not the modern woman’s best friend; no, it’s modern man’s dream come true. So my first question is: Why would you want to bring these kinds of products anywhere near your marriage?
         The second and more important question is why does contraception wound love? —because this was the problem the two popes saw. It’s because the marital act is different from most human acts. Hunger draws you toward food, and when you engage the food the result is you’re satisfied. Hunger has achieved its end. When you’re attracted to and love someone, you’re drawn toward them, but when you engage them the results are an intense bonding and the possibility of new life. And so we say the two ends of the marital embrace are babies and bonding, or life and love, or —most precisely— the procreative and the unitive dimensions of it. The fatal flaw in birth control is that it tries to isolate the two ends of marriage —“I’m just looking for bonding now”— and so, minutely, imperceptibly, unintentionally it damages them both. After 2,000 years of closely watching human nature, the Church’s conclusion was that you can’t intentionally close the door to life without inadvertently closing out love too. You may think you are getting that one still, but it’s being diminished.
         Many people think that’s a stretch. Let me borrow an example from Dr. Janet Smith to demonstrate how openness to life protects openness to love. Picture a college age couple. They’re seniors; they’ve been dating about four months. They’re having a picnic one afternoon and the guy stares intently at the girl, and looks deep into her eyes and says: “We’ve been dating a while now, and, well I can’t keep from saying it anymore: I want to have a physically intimate relationship with you.” Ladies, don’t be too impressed. If you say “no”, there are a thousand girls on this campus who’d say “yes”. But…if he stares at her and looks deep into her eyes and says: “We’ve been dating a while now, and, well I can’t keep from saying it anymore: I want to have children with you. I want my kids to be tucked into bed by you. I want the girls to look like you and the boys to want to stand up to defend you.” Ladies, call home. That’s like a marriage proposal. We know the difference in a love that is open and willing to make another human being with someone.  
         And people will object: “But Father, we are going to be open to having children, but that doesn’t mean we always have to be open every time we touch! We’ll be open to new life at least 80% of the time.” Hmm… Would you say it’s a good marriage if the couple is faithful —physically— to each other only 80% of the time? Would it be a healthy marriage if 20% of the time one of them is abandoned by the other? Because the wedding vows of the Church ask if a couple is willing to 1) stay together for life, 2) be faithful to each other, and 3) be open to having and rearing children. Doing any vow just 80% of the time is not good. The heart knows when it’s being accepted fully and when it’s being seen as a timeshare condo. Natural Family Planning, which seeks to know when the least fertile times are, differs by saying “We’re always open to life; God can do whatever he wants. It seems unlikely he’d gift us with new life here, but that’s his decision.”
         See, it all comes down to Trust, and trust is something that shrinks, and grows, and changes with only the minutest of observable signs. The root of Grasping is fear; fear ruins people and relationships. But St. John the Apostle writes to us: “But perfect loves casts out fear!” Tiny acts of Love and Trust keep fear out and make the relationship stronger, while not trusting erodes what looks like a good marriage. 
         I want to share with you a scene from one of my favorite movies, Four Christmases. The story is about Brad played by Vince Vaughn and Kate played by Reese Witherspoon. They are a couple that never wants to get married, get tied down, or have kids. Most of this stems from the divorces of their parents, which is why they have four Christmases to go to. On this one day they begin to see little ways in which they aren’t trusting, aren’t loving openly, and are fearful. Here’s the key conversation after Kate takes a pregnancy test. It even uses the words I’ve been using:
BradListen, if there's one thing we've learned by being forced to be around our families today it's about the dangers of procreating. Besides, that's not the things that we want in life.
KateBrad, I realized it today. I thought for sure, I'd always known that I didn't want to have kids and I took this test, I'm waiting to see if it's positive or negative and I thought, for just a second. I felt...different. You know? I felt hopeful. Like maybe it would just happen and we'd be forced to get over all of our fears. We have spent so much of our relationship creating all these boundaries you know, and making sure that we don't limit ourselves with responsibility...and obligation, and I don't wanna live like that anymore. Because that's not loving at all.
Kate continues: I'm tired of being one foot in. I want us to be open, to love each other... however it's going to be. And if one day that means we get married if we have kids one day I feel like that's okay. I wanna be in a relationship... that goes where it needs to go.
         Openness to life safeguards the openness to love. Even in marriage, contracepting is being “one foot in”; it’s a boundary created by worry about obligation. Openness in one part of a marriage extends into the others.
We long to be loved fully, unreservedly, unconditionally. Birth control says I love everything about you except one little thing: your fertility, your sperm, your femininity. Do you remember maybe ten years ago a Dr. Pepper commercial featuring a song by the singer Meatloaf? For those who don’t, there’s a dating couple and she drags him to all the worst scenarios: she’s in the car all cramped up while he’s in the drugstore, they’re folding her clothes at the laundromat, going to yoga, holding her purse while she shops. And all the while, as he sucks it up out of love, the song is saying “And I would do anything for love, I would do anything for love….” But at the end —the last straw— she reaches for his can of Dr. Pepper, and he leaps off the couch and runs out the door as the chorus belts, “…I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that!” Dr. Pepper love is not unconditionally love. There is one condition, one thing is off-limits: don’t take my drink! He loves her a lot, but not entirely. Contraception in marriage is a Dr. Pepper kind of love. I say I love everything about you, but I don’t. I don’t want to give myself to you entirely; I’m holding one thing back. I can’t trust that you’ll love the whole me. Contraception is like saying: “I love you so much. I long for you. I want to make love to you. Now, would you mind putting this bag over your head first, though? Thanks. Now I can enjoy this without distractions.” 
Some of you right now think I’m crazy. You’re thinking “not in the marriages I know!” To which I say: “Oh, really? Then why are there so many faked headaches in so many bedrooms across this country? Why can some comedians make a living out of jokes about being denied? Why? Because we have antennae in us for when we’re being used. Humans —and I think especially women— have sensors for picking up tiny, imperceptible little hints that “this is not a gift”. And the surest way to shift from Give to Take is to disconnect the relationship from its openness to life. It says, “I want the bonus without the burden.” Sorry, honey, I love you, but not enough to risk there being another of you in the world. 
And people may still say: “Well, our marriage is fine. Our group of friends are all in good shape.” I’d say: “That means you’re coping well.” Seriously, talk to a couple who has contracepted and then quit. They literally had no idea what they were missing, what little bits of communication were skipped, what possible moments of Use were allowed to sneak by —bits and moments that they can see clearly now. I know probably a dozen couples at least, of various ages, who would love to tell you about how they’ve been changed. Seriously, give me your number, I’ll have them call you. I’m not kidding. There are some who literally consider the day they learned there were other options the best day of their last 25 years.   
         I could go on for another 20 minutes demonstrating how contraception actually took money away from families (see The Two-Income Trap by Warren & Tyagi), how much of our poverty today is caused by the single parenthood that contraception has made common, and how infidelity, divorce, and marital unhappiness have grown —not shrunk— since contraception became widespread. But I want to end with a story about how we know what love is by how it acts.
         In Iowa, in the late 1940s or early 50s —before all these things were available— there was a farm couple that had had a very rough, incredibly dangerous last pregnancy. And as her body was returning to normal she went to see the doctor. And now she’s in the kitchen twisting her apron to bits waiting for her husband to come in from the field. He comes in and can see she’s upset and instantly wants to know what the doctor said. Her eyes already are brimming with tears as she says: “He said…he said I just can’t get pregnant again…not till we have some idea what’s wrong…it’s too dangerous…so we’ve either got to stop all together…or maybe there may be a day or two when we know for certain that it’s safe.” And the farmer’s brow gets all furrowed and his face turns red, and now she’s really crying as she turns away from him thinking, “I knew it. I knew he’d blow his stack. This is too much for him.” He meanwhile has sat himself down at the table and is clenching his fists and is just glaring straight ahead. She sits down and sobs to him: “Look, maybe there a chance…maybe we can be careful and…a few more times…” At that he slams his fist down and shouts, “No, I don’t care what that doctor says!” And she thinks, “I knew it! We’re over now. This isn’t…” But he cuts across her thoughts and says: “I don’t care what he says. We’re not doing it. At all. I’m not taking any chances. I don’t care how long we have to wait; I don’t care if it’s months or years. It’s not gonna happen. I don’t care if it’s hard on us, if it’s hard on me. I’ll get through that. But no, I’m not doing anything that could even begin to take a risk with you.”
         We know love when we see it. I promise you, that that marriage was not hurt by this. They waited two full years before they could discover and fix her problems, and I promise you that marriage did not grow weaker. It only grew stronger, because they saw what love was, and what love does, and what love doesn’t do. 
We know Love when we see it. Paul VI and John Paul II saw it at afar even when the world didn’t. 
The world said that unbridled freedom was the only thing and unsacrificial love was the only way to have it. 
Did they deliver on happier, long-lasting marriages, less unplanned pregnancies, and less infidelity? 
Or were the popes right: that affairs, divorce, out-of-wedlock birth, general immorality, and disrespect for women would increase? 
We are not wrong on this. 
We weren’t wrong 40 years ago, and we aren’t wrong now. 
We have nothing to be ashamed of in this. 
We should be proudly claiming it again. 
We must be fearless. 
We know what love is, and contraception isn’t anywhere close.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Laudate Dominum In Sanctis Eius

In February I learned that my old Latin and Etymology teacher, Mr. Bob Butz, died. Some amazing tributes were written by friends and former students (here and here and here, and more that were just on Facebook walls). I longed to write something, but I couldn't put my thoughts together. I told myself on the morning of the funeral that I would write something—anything—on the way back to Nebraska. But then Fr. Thomas Haan, another former student of Mr. Butz and a priest less than a year ordained, gave this funeral homily. He said everything I would have wanted to say and more. And as Fr. Haan gave this beautiful sermon, I was not envious of his skill (though I certainly could have been); I was just grateful that I was there to hear it.

I asked him if I could have a copy, and if I could share it. He humbly consented. Mary Schnerre's recent telling of the books and notes of Mr. Butz that they have been going through, and of the hand-carved wood trim they found that had been inscribed with Psalm 150 (see above), made me think that now was a good time to share Fr. Haan's homily. 

Fr. Thomas Haan
February 10, 2014
Funeral Mass homily for L. Robert Butz
St. Boniface Catholic Church

When a person thinks of Bob Butz baseball stories, one immediately thinks of the almost mythical moment when his father took him as a little boy to a local Yankees exhibition game. According to Bob, his dad walked him right to the dugout and introduced him to Babe Ruth, who in turn introduced him to Lou Gehrig. They signed a ball for him, but as boys are apt to do, he soon lost it.
But the Bob Butz baseball story which first comes to my mind occurred ten or fifteen years after he met the Great Bambino. Bob told me when he was an early teenager there was a Father-son game in town. He had been pitching, and pitching well. Toward the middle of the game, who walks into the batter’s box but his father. The pressure was on, and he wanted to throw the ball with all he had. On his first pitch, his dad promptly knocked it out of the park.
He would always end that story by saying, “Talk about mixed emotions!” He was disappointed that he didn’t blow one past his dad, but underneath his feeling of defeat, he was he so proud of his father’s blast. Talk about mixed emotions.
We who still find ourselves in this valley of tears feel an overwhelming (and even scary) sense of loss. It sounds trite but the world has lost a treasure. WE have lost a treasure. But at the very same time, underneath this sense of defeat, we all have some interior awareness tucked deep within that tells us that this man, in the words of St. Paul, has “achieved life’s goal: his salvation.” Talk about mixed emotions. Right now the sense of loss overwhelms the joy, but maybe through the passage of time it will at least balance out.
Many here today knew him simply as “Mr. Butz,” and this formal nomenclature just seemed fitting. The man exuded a presence which evoked a deep respect, which was reflected in how you addressed him.
Others knew him simply as “Bob,” like his colleague and good friend Dick Jaeger, the Music Program Director and Jeff, who gave a moving and humorous tribute to his friend yesterday evening at Soller-Baker. Like Mary Wagner and her boys who lived across the street. Mary took such good care of Bob over the last several years, watched over him like a mother hen.
But a special few of you were privileged to call him Uncle Bob, and I’d venture to say that even hearing the name “Uncle Bob” will still bring a surge of joy to your hearts for years and years to come. He so cared for his sisters, he deeply loved his nieces and nephews, and he was so proud of his great nieces and nephews. He would buy his nieces expensive dresses, he would teach you all music, he bought you guitars, and tried to teach you to root for the White Sox. He lavished his love on you. He was such a big part of your life.
Beyond his own family, he had so many passions in life. His first was probably sports, and he would admit that studies took a backseat to his athletic interests in his early years. But gradually he acquired a love for words and languages. He developed a love of the arts, for painting, for sculptures, a love which probably came from his hero, his Grandfather Stephen Ketterer. He loved to work with his hands, and became a mason of sorts. He loved music, directing so many choirs over the decades, most memorably the men’s choir which would sing at the Feast of the Hunter’s Moon and at the Transitus, which celebrated the beautiful death of St. Francis. Today we celebrate a similar passing into eternal life, Bob’s own transitus.
He also loved books, and books were what consumed many of my conversations with him. Of course he loved the great American authors: Hemingway, Whitman, Thoreau. But he loved all books: we would talk about theology books, Scripture books, poetry books. We began a trend of exchanging books, and once he gave me a little fiction book he would read his students every year around Christmas time. It’s called, “The Other Wise Man,” detailing the journey of a fourth wise man, who never makes it to the crib at Bethlehem with the other three magi. Even before reading it I looked at the title and thought to myself, “Now there’s a title for a biography of Bob Butz: The Other Wise Man.”
But in all this variety of passions in his life: art, music, masonry, words, languages, books... there is a unity in their diversity. Because ultimately, we know why he was passionate about these things.
He read books and books and books to pursue TRUTH. Yes, the truth for the sake of learning the truth, to expand the mind, to educate oneself. But he knew that all truth finds its origin in God, who is Truth. He had a thirst to know his God, to obtain knowledge of the God he loved so much. To grow in knowledge is to draw closer to God.
He deeply loved his family and was good to them. He treated his students with respect, and was generous to the poor. He was a good man, but he didn’t do these things merely because it was the “right thing to do.” He didn’t go to the grotto of Lourdes in France every year to bathe the sick and crippled in its healing waters … He was good because the God he loved so much is good, that all GOODNESS comes from God and when you live in God’s goodness, you draw closer to that God.
Bob was a musician, he was an artist, he was a vocalist. Yes, he loved these things because he was attracted to BEAUTY. But of course he didn’t slave over his stage backdrops and wood carvings and pencil sketches merely to delight his desire for attractive things. He knew that all beauty was an emanation of the God whom he found beautiful, who was the source of all beauty. Each time he encountered beauty or created something beautiful, he drew closer to the God he loved.
Yes, there is a clear unity in the life of Bob Butz, a golden thread which was woven throughout his 92 years. Through his love of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, this was a man who lived for God. And there is further evidence for this. Some know of his extreme dedication to his weekly hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament… at 4 in the morning. Most know of his tender and childlike love for our Blessed Mother, lived out in his dedication to his daily Rosary and his meditation on its mysteries. And of course his love for Scripture and his daily reading of it. And as a result of this he became a clear and palpable image of Our Lord in our midst. Whenever you came in contact with Bob you had a renewed zest for life, a deeper desire to live a better life. Isn’t this the effect the presence of Christ should have?
And now we begin to talk about a “legacy” of Bob Butz, a man so full of knowledge and wisdom. Yes, so many of his students have acquired knowledge from him. Being inspired by his life many will go out and contribute to education as teachers, become artists and authors and musicians. But no matter how vigorous make efforts in these pursuits, no matter how much we contribute to the development of culture or society, if we don’t do these things for the same reason Bob did, then it will really be no true legacy at all. His one Love must become our one love.
It is recorded that while St. Francis was nearing his own death, he welcomed what he called “Sister Death.” I doubt that is the way Bob would have thought of his own death… but I think he would now. Because it was only through death that he was finally able to be united with the loving Lord he had pursued his entire life on earth. Our job today at this funeral Mass is to commend his soul to God, that God’s mercy will wash over him and welcome him to the heavenly banquet. Because it is there, where we shall see God face to face, that there are no longer any mixed emotions.