Homily for Ash Wednesday (February 13, 2013)

Text: Homily for Ash Wednesday

**This is not the full text – I actually gave this homily off the cuff – I don’t remember exactly what I said – if you know that I said something that I forgot or said something differently, say so in a comment. Peace of Christ and may you have a holy and blessed Lent.

February Courier Article: Should youth go to the March for Life in DC?

This month, due to miscommunication and space, I thought some key paragraphs were left out of my February article. Therefore, I am posting here the article as I wish it had appeared. I highlighted the paragraphs and sections that did not appear in the Courier with “<<” and “>>”. I thought the second to last paragraph was important to the question at hand.


You should not be reading this article. One, because I turned it into the editor late. Secondly, because of my life story. See, my life’s history begins when I was one. I was found on the doorstep of the police station in Mokpo, South Korea. I was put in an orphanage. I was cared for by people who had no reason to other than they believed it was the right thing to do. I was then adopted by a family in Iowa (I know some of you think that living in Iowa is a detriment, but if it is, it is minor in the grand scheme of things.) Bill and Mary Kay, my parents, were loving and open enough to invite me into their family. Then they paid for (with the help of insurance) open heart surgery soon after I arrived. I have no idea what happened during the first 21 months (one year plus nine months in the womb) or so of my life. I just don’t know what sacrifices my biological mother made. Maybe she was told to get an abortion. I don’t know if doctors in Korea in the early 70’s can tell, but today doctors can tell if a baby in the womb has a weak, deficient heart. Today, would she have been encouraged to abort me because of my heart condition? So, it is a minor miracle that you are reading an article I wrote.

Steve Jobs, Scott Hamilton (Olympic ice skater), Melissa Gilbert (who played Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie), Faith Hill, Dante Culpepper, Edger Allen Poe, Eleanor Roosevelt, Aristotle, George Washington Carver, Mark Twain, President Gerald Ford, and many others were adopted. Now I don’t know if all of them were ever an any danger of being aborted, but these people, as was I, were given a chance to make the most of themselves, to reach their God-given potential because someone stepped up and loved them and gave them opportunities. The world would be a radically different place without these people in our history. (Some of you may argue it would be a better place, but that’s beside the point.)

Think about your own life. We all have so much potential for great things. This year we remember that it has been forty years since Roe versus Wade. Who knows what greatness, what love, what impact on us and on the world we have lost in the estimated 50 million people we have lost.

This is why we need to send people, especially the youth, the policy makers of tomorrow, to the March for Life in Washington, DC. We need to be reminded that while we go on with our lives day in and day out, there are thousands each day who lose their lives before they’ve even had a chance to really start.

I didn’t even know the March for Life existed for most of my life. The first time I went was with my seminary classmates in 2009. I have been fully pro-life since my days of college at Iowa State in the late 90’s. However, it wasn’t until I was with hundreds of thousands of others, that hope really began. When we look at statistics, when we watch TV or read the news, or talk to people we know, it is easy to be discouraged that public opinion will ever change or that Roe versus Wade will over be overturned. However, when you stand in the middle of hundreds of thousands of others from different faiths, it gives you the hope that someday we will again respect all human life, no matter what <<their background is, what their ethnicity is, what their IQ is, what their athletic ability is, what stage in life their are in-in the womb, out of the womb, in a nursing home.>> Living in southern Minnesota, I think it is sometimes easy to forget there are others out there fighting for the truth and lives of the unborn. It can seem to be a very lonely and impossible fight. This lie is soon forgotten as you are marching towards the Capital building with over 500,000 other people, mostly youth. That was one of the things that amazed me. The March is not full of crusty old people, but it is full of vibrant, energetic youth. In just this our second year, we had two buses go from our diocese. Benedictine College (in Atchison, KS), an awesome Catholic college, took a record (for them) seven buses of college students. Youth all around the country are beginning to see the truth. By going, our youth realize they are not alone in this. This is a really important realization. At the March there is a somber joy. A joy that comes from so many gathering for the same good cause…but a somber mood remembering all the lives that have been lost and will be lost.

<<Another good reason for our youth to go to the March for Life in Washington, DC is because there are a lot of good speakers and events that go on. I don’t know why, but sometimes young people get tired of hearing the same thing over and over again from their parents, teachers, and even their pastors. While in DC, the young people have a chance to hear nationally known speakers who are trained in conveying and evangelizing people to understand the truth of the dignity of all human life, from conception to natural death. There will also hear mothers talk about the pain and anguish that has come from knowing they have killed their own children. However, they also speak of the hope and forgiveness of God. So just by hangout out, they learn more theology and arguments for being pro-life.>>

<<I don’t have the room to do so here, but last year, the first thing we did in DC was visit the Holocaust Museum. Not to make light of what happened in Europe over a half-century ago, but it is a good reflection to think about the parallels between the Holocaust and the millions of children losing their lives in the womb in our country. (If you want to see my reflection, click on entries from January 2012 on my blog at fathervogel.wordpress.com.) Also, I recently read an interesting article comparing the thoughts about slaves around the time of the Civil War and the thoughts about unborn babies. I can’t find the specific article I read, but Google search seems to indicate it is a well written topic.>>

<<<<Some may make the argument that all of this is fruitless. Why did the diocese spend good money sending people to DC? It hasn’t changed anything in the past 40 years and it isn’t going to change government policy now. That may or may not be true, but when we do things like this, even if it is just sending a letter to our senators, it changes us. Our going on the March for Life may not change our nation, but it changes us. When we stand up for the truth, even if others around us aren’t changed, we are changed. We learn to stand up for the truth so that doing so next time is that much easier. We are drawn ever deeper into the life-giving womb of Mary, the womb that gave life to our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is thee Way, the Truth, and the Life. Pray to Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the Americas, to intercede for us.>>>>

One last thing, the next time you see a large family, go up to the parents and thank them for saying yes to life. Thank them for seeing children as a blessing and not as a curse or a bill. Thank them for saying yes to being partners with God in creating eternal souls. The victory of the culture of life over the culture of death begins today and it begins with us.

March for Life 2013 – Day 4 & 5

Saturday morning we packed up our stuff at the hotel and headed out. We met up with the Bishop and Father Colletti for 9:30 AM Mass in the Crypt Chapel of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Also my friends Mary Acosta and Jen Gray also met us there for Mass. It was a glorious celebration. How appropriate it is that it was the Feast of Timothy and Titus. These great bishops fought for the truth in the early church. Especially Timothy was a younger bishop. What great heroes and role models for the young people on the trip. In St. Paul’s letter to Timothy, he says, “Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12) Our youth did that this weekend. May we pray and encourage them to do this always.

Here are some pictures from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (These pictures were taken by another person in our group with my camera. However, she did a great job showing off some of the amazing things that are inside the National Shrine.)

DSC_3095 DSC_3096 DSC_3097 DSC_3098 DSC_3099 DSC_3100 DSC_3101 DSC_3102 DSC_3103

After Mass, we went down near the Holocaust Museum. (If you want to read about the parallels between the Holocaust and the lives lost due to abortion, you can read my reflection from January 2012. – https://fathervogel.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/holocaust-museum/) However, there was a line about a quarter mile long, so we weren’t going to get in any time soon. So I and my friends Jen and Mary went to the Natural History Museum. It amazes me how much time and effort is put into categorizing the plants and animals around us. As a kid, I remember being fascinated by space and space exploration. I remember one time my aunt said, “Why are we spending millions of dollars sending people into space? We’ve got enough problems down here.” It is true, the space program has given us many advancements that we use every day. As a species, we are very curious. We constantly seek to know more and more; to better understand the universe around us. God created us this way. However, it needs to be tempered by love and concern. This constant seeking should never step on the rights of others. The first thing that comes to mind is stem cell research and in vitro fertilization. Little human beings are created and then destroyed and killed in the name of science and convenience. In some ways, we make ourselves no better than Hitler when we do this. Human beings in the embryonic state are not things to be used, but are persons to be loved and respected.

After that we jumped back on the bus and headed for Minnesota. We made great time and arrived back in Winona in great time. We had a beautiful, squished Mass in the chapel at IHM seminary in Winona. After Mass, the bus took some of us on to Rochester. As we were unloading the freezing rain began. Luckily I had planned to just drive 20 miles SE to Chatfield, MN to visit a priest friend. I think I’ll end the journaling there.

What a great and powerful trip! I am so thankful to Bishop Quinn, Peter Martin, and Ben Frost for making this opportunity available. I first went to the March for Life in my third year of theology as a seminarian. Then, once I was ordained, for two years I went by myself (and thus I would fly – which does have its obvious benefits over a 20 hour bus ride). Last year we maybe had 2/3 of a bus. This year, with the seminarians we had two full buses. I got to take along two youth from my own parishes. I also know there was about a 1/3 of a bus of people on a waiting list. I am excited about more and more young people from our diocese going in the coming years, especially from Fulda, Currie, and Westbrook. Actually, I would be most excited if we didn’t have to go at all (because abortion had been made illegal). It can sometimes be lonely, even for us adults, to stand up for life. However, it is events like these that we can walk away from energized because we realize that we are not alone in our fight for right to life of all, in our fight to change our culture from a culture of death to a culture of life. We need each other to give us hope. And we know there is always hope because we know Christ is victorious. Thus we know this victory, the victory of the culture of life over the culture of death is assumed. This must not make us lazy, but rather inflame us to greatness.

Thanks for reading. Hope to see more of you in D.C. next year (assuming Roe versus Wade has still not been overturned).