Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 315 – A Scout Is Brave – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 3rd, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Chapel at BartleLast week at the beginning of camp at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation in Osceola, Missouri, I talked about the importance of loyalty, the ability to stick by our commitments. This week’s homily at the end of camp focuses on the 10th point of the Scout Law, “A Scout is brave.”

Loyalty and fortitude are great virtues for keeping us on track. However, it is possible to be loyal a committed to goals that are in fact pretty small. In order for loyalty to have it’s greatest effect, we have to make big goals. We have to dare to do more than we thought we could. We have to be willing to take risks. For this, we need bravery.

On this Independence Day weekend, we especially note the bravery of those men and women who have fought in our armed forces defending our freedom. We look to the next generation and ask who might be willing to be brave enough to serve. Looking at our readings today, we most especially ask, “Who is brave enough to risk every, to leave it all, for Jesus?”

Things the Supreme Court Got Right

June 27th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Pro-Life at Supreme CourtMost people who care about the lives of unborn babies and their mothers recognize today’s decision by the Supreme Court as a setback. It was. It is just the latest in a long string of bad decisions all based on the lie that some people are not people and others have the right to kill them when they are deemed inconvenient. Despite the depravity that led to such a decision, in a strange sort of way, there are some things you could say that the court technically got right.

Buildings where abortions are performed are not medical facilities. Any pro-life person could have told you this. When former abortion facilities are acquired by pro-life groups, the buildings are shown to more closely resemble an animal slaughterhouse than anything related to a medical facility. But today the Supreme Court agreed with the pro-lifers. Texas is not allowed to regulate buildings where abortions are performed as if they were actual medical facilities.

Abortion is not a medical procedure. Texas tried to regulate abortion as a type of surgery. The Supreme Court said, “no.” Having a mole removed is surgery, but having knives and a vacuum cleaner shoved into your womb to rip the limbs off a baby is not. It cannot be regulated as surgery. And they’re right. Abortion is not surgery; it is assault. Likening it to any medical procedure is an insult to real medical professionals. Any pro-life person could have told you that, but today the Supreme Court agreed. Abortion cannot be regulated like an actual medical procedure.

People who perform abortions are not doctors. While people who perform abortions have some knowledge of anatomy, useful for making sure all the body parts are accounted for after the “procedure,” they use this knowledge in the same way any serial killer would use anatomical knowledge to know the best way to kill his victims. Clearly abortionists are not doctors, and today the Supreme Court agreed. Texas is not allowed to require abortionists to meet the same standards that real doctors would have to meet.

More conclusions could be drawn, but at least these three things stick out as the logical conclusion of what the court said today. Perhaps the saddest thing we learned was that a large number of women remain so deceived that they actually cheered for this decision. Imagine an airline company going to court over and over fighting for the right not to have to follow safety standards that all the other airlines follow. They complain that if they had to spend all that money to make their planes safe that it would hurt their profits. Then imagine parents cheering as they gleefully fight for the right to send their young children on these doomed airplanes. This is what the abortion industry is doing and this is what we are doing to scared, pressured, teenage girls every day. Sending them into an abortion mill is putting them on an airplane that you know will crash, killing the baby on board, at least wounding the mother for life…and cheering for it. Demonic.

Although today’s decision is of course wrong on the whole, there is something right about it. No one would expect Auschwitz to meet the standards of a surgical facility, nor the guards to have proper licensing as doctors. Most don’t like to talk about it, but people know what goes on in places like Auschwitz, and certain laws just have to be overlooked because places like Auschwitz are “necessary.” In our day, we have decided that places for the committing of abortion are likewise necessary. In light of that, it does actually seem kind of silly to think we would try to regulate what goes on there, as if it were actual medical care. People don’t get sent to Auschwitz for medical care and that’s not why they go to abortion facilities. The goal of both places is death.

Today the Supreme Court gave us some clarity about what abortion is not. The buildings where abortion is committed cannot be regulated as medical facilities. The procedure itself cannot be regulated as a medical procedure. Those who commit abortions are not to be regulated like real doctors. Maybe by admitting all the things that abortion is not, people might finally begin to realize what abortion is. Maybe all the wrong in this decision could actually help us realize what is right.

Homily 314 – A Scout Is Loyal – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 26th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Mass at BartleMany people today are afraid of making commitments. There seems to be a fear that if I commit to something then I’ll be missing out on something else. Many express a desire to “keep all my options open.” Yet, the secret to real happiness in life is not keeping our options open, but finding something worthy of a commitment and then giving it our all.

The ability to stick by our commitments is the essence of the second point of the Scout Law, “A Scout is Loyal.” In this homily, given at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation in Osceola, Missouri, I explore the importance of loyalty and the Christian virtue of fortitude.

Homily 313 – The Importance of Miracles – 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 5th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Sistine AngelOne day as I was visiting the Library of Congress in Washington, I noticed an exhibit on “Thomas Jefferson’s Bible.” I was very intrigued to see this relic, looking forward to what margin notes the founding father might have written. Instead, I found that what Jefferson had done was to take the Bible from different languages and then literally cut it all to pieces so as to save only those parts that he thought “actually happened.” Not making the “cut” were all of the miracle stories, including today’s gospel. The result was a book he called “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” Disappointed, I realized that this “bible” was really no Bible at all. It wasn’t even “good news.”

You see, Jesus wasn’t just some moral teacher who’s life we could imitate on some intellectual level of appreciation. You just can’t take the “teaching” of Jesus and then ignore all those parts about being God and doing things only God can do. Perhaps even more than anything he taught, it was doing the miraculous that most attracted people to Jesus. Miracles revealed not ideas, but a person; they revealed who Jesus really was.

Given the important role that miracles played in attracting the first Christians, how strange would it be to think that we could come to know and follow Jesus without miracles. A lot of people today tend to think of the miracles of Jesus as something of the past, or just unnecessary, or even fake like Jefferson. Maybe this is why we don’t experience them as much. We don’t expect miracles, so we often don’t see them and, worse, we don’t even ask.

In today’s homily, I look at the first reading and the Gospel, both just your average “raising from the dead stories” (ho hum) and then even consider a time that I prayed for a miracle and God sent me an angel.

New Assignments from the Archbishop

May 22nd, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Effective July 1, 2016, Archbishop Naumann has appointed me as follows:

Defender of the Bond – Archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal
Pastor – St. Philip Neri Parish, Osawatomie
Pastor – Sacred Heart Parish, Mound City
Pastor – Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, La Cygne

I will be continuing as Archdiocesan Scout Chaplain

The Catholic World of Maurice Duruflé

May 2nd, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Rouen CathedralI spent yesterday afternoon driving back and forth across Washington in pursuit of some really wonderful music. After the noon Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, with its always amazing choir, I quickly scooted off the the University of Maryland where the Marine Chamber Orchestra and UMD Symphony Orchestra were combining for a concert of music inspired by World War I. Still applauding the end of this magnificent concert I quickly jumped back in my car and headed to the Kennedy Center where the Washington Chorus was performing an evening of French sacred music.

Two of the major works on the program were by the great composer and organist Maurice Duruflé. The first half featured his Messe “Cum Jubilo and the second half his most famous Requiem. Some secular directors might try to distance these sacred works from their proper Catholic context (as a guest conductor with the U.S. Army Band did at a recent concert where O Magnum Mysterium was described merely as “An inward looking piece” with no mention of Christmas or even religion at all…but I digress). Such was not the case yesterday with director Julian Wachner. He went out of his way to explain how the music of Duruflé was liturgical music and its context of the Catholic Mass. At one point, seeming almost taken up into the beauty of the liturgy, he asked the audience to picture the “gold vessels, incense, gorgeous vestments, and a cathedral with 6 seconds of reverb…” finally declaring, “This music just sounds so…so Catholic!”

I was struck by how much the soul was made for this beauty and longs for it, even when it is so hard to find these days. The music of Duruflé and Fauré are today more likely found in the concert hall than the cathedral. What a travesty that we’ve lost so much of what sounds and looks “so Catholic” in the modern world, all in the name of “progress.” In addition to the description of maestro Wachner, I was particularly moved by the program notes on the life of Duruflé and the context that gave rise to this beautiful music. Consider the following notes from Dennis Keene and see if you don’t long for this…and weep for its absence:

It was Easter Sunday, 1912, and young Maurice Duruflé and his father were traveling from their home town of Louviers to the great city of Rouen. It was the most exciting trip the ten year old boy had ever taken. One can almost imagine his eyes bulging as they arrived in that great metropolis and came upon the huge and ancient gothic cathedral. What a day he must have had, getting the grand tour, including a visit to the boychoir school and a talk with its director.

But his excitement at all this was completely dashed at the end of the day when his father informed him that he wouldn’t be returning home, but, starting that very night, living there for the next several years! In Duruflé’s own words, “I needn’t say what was my reaction. That night in the dormitory I sobbed on my bed.”

Fortunately, the kind choirmaster of the Cathedral heard the boy crying, and raised his spirits by telling him of all the exciting things in store for him how he would get to study music all the time, be a part of all the great High Masses and ceremonies of the Cathedral, and one day play the organ. Duruflé said of this turning point in his life, “A great page opened in front of me.”

And what a page it was! His life for the next six years was centered on one of the glories of France, the Cathedral of Rouen. Built in the 1200s, the magnificent cathedral had attracted countless visitors down through the centuries. One famous visitor, Claude Monet, was painting his famous Rouen Cathedral paintings just eighteen years before Duruflé arrived.

Although life at the choir school was strict (up at 6:00 every morning, no heat in the dormitories, prayers at 6:30, studies and rehearsals all day) young Maurice was thrilled by all the musical activity and he was quite overwhelmed by the great liturgies of the Cathedral. His years there were to have an extraordinary influence on him, arguably the single strongest artistic influence of his life. For the world of the Gregorian chant, its melodies, modal harmonies, the rise and fall and supple contours of the lines, and the spiritual and mystical aesthetic-this special world remained at the core of his artistic soul for his entire career.

Every morning of the week the choirboys would study and rehearse the chants for the upcoming Sunday. There were evening rehearsals as well, when the boys would be joined by tenors and basses. On Sundays they sang at the High Mass in the morning and Vespers in the afternoon. At the end of the Vesper service was the liturgy of the Benediction of the Most Holy Sacrament, for which the Rouen townspeople packed their ancient cathedral week after week. Duruflé described the grand procession as follows: it was led by two Swiss men in specially designed uniforms, followed by the boychoir, then fifty seminarians, dozens of canons and clergy of the cathedral, all dressed in white and grey ermine, and finally by a large velvet canopy under which processed the Archbishop carrying the Holy Sacrament. Directly in front of the canopy were eight thurifers-men carrying pots of incense which they waved regularly, creating great clouds of smoke. This was the kind of ceremony he lived with every week during this part of his life. And it is important to remember that the central musical component of this and all other liturgies was Gregorian chant. This influence was to become a part of his very being.

Homily 312 – Purple Rain – 5th Sunday of Easter

April 24th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Prince“When there’s blood in the sky – red and blue= purple… purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain.” – Prince

The key to investing is to buy low and sell high. You’ve got to know not only what something seems to be worth right now but, more importantly, what value it will have in the future. The ideal is to find something that most people don’t think is worth very much right now but then will become very valuable in the future. With that in mind, ask yourself this question, “What is the value of this world?”

If we look at right now, there are two possible extremes. We could say that this world is so messed up that it is just a pile of junk. There’s no good in it and we can’t wait to leave this world and go to heaven. On the other hand, we could place so much importance on this world that we live as if this is all there is. It is important that we don’t fall too far to either extreme. Yet, the more important question, the one hinted at above, is not what the world seems to be worth now, but what will it be worth in the future?

Our second reading today gives us the “insider trading” information about the end of the world. We shouldn’t treat the world as though material things are bad because the scripture tells us that such things will exist in eternity; there will be a “new heavens and a new earth,” not some intangible “spiritual” life without either. Yet, we are also told that this world is “passing away;” it won’t last, so don’t put too much stock in it.

Many people have been caught up this week in the sensation of the death of the famous pop singer, Prince. People are turning things purple all over the place to honor the memory of the singer who’s most famous song is entitled, “Purple Rain.” For full disclosure, I have to say that I do in fact like much of his music and grew up with it, but I in no way condone much of his personal life or even most of the lyrics of his songs. I was, however, interested to learn more about this strange phrase, “Purple Rain.” While many people have opinions, the one I found most interesting was an answer given by Prince himself, and that is the quote above; it’s about the end of the world… and therefore a fitting topic for today’s readings (a stretch..but go with me)

The red in the sky is of course a reference to the Book of Revelation and Prince says as much when he says the song is about the end of the world. Note that the red represents all the struggle and suffering and death in the world while the blue represents the peaceful beauty of creation. In Prince’s mind, the two end up mixed together and you get purple. I’ve read that Prince did have a “spiritual side,” but you wouldn’t call him a theologian by any means. And yet… there’s something very theologically right about the purple. This world is a mix of both suffering and beauty. There’s much right with the world, but also much wrong. The answer is not to look only at the extremes, but to accept the world as it is…purple.

In a beautiful way then, Prince is right that the answer is not to escape the world, or to worship the world; you go through it. When faced with the ambiguity of the purple, the answer is “letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain.” The result is a new creation where every tear is wiped away, when things are no longer purple but pure beauty.

At the risk of giving Prince more theological credit than due, consider this interesting tidbit: The “B side” of the Purple Rain single is a song called “God” and it’s about the Book of Genesis. I don’t know if he intended it, but it is absolutely theologically sound to look at the end of the world as really just the “flip side” of the creation of the world. Just as God created everything in the beginning, he will make a new creation at the end of this world.

Finally, I can’t help but notice Prince’s reference to going through this purple rain “with the one you love.” In the gospel today, St. John gives us the best investment tip we could ever hope for. Invest in love. It only increases in value. We don’t take anything from this world with us into the new creation…except love. This life is difficult, but we are not meant to go through it alone. Take care of your brothers and sisters. There will be a day when the new creation arrives and we pray we’re in heaven together. Until then, we need to help each other make it through the messy, ambiguous mix of joy and suffering in this life. We’ve got to help each other through the Purple Rain.

Homily 311 – Past to the Future – 5th Sunday of Lent

March 13th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Woman In AdulteryThe readings today cause us to look back to the past. Specifically, we are to be reminded of the ways in which God has saved us in the past. It is common to find the movie “The Ten Commandments” on TV during this time of year. Each year at Passover, the Jewish people continue to recall this most important way in which God saved us from slavery in Egypt and brought us through the Red Sea.

Yet we are not meant to look only backward in history. The same God that saved Israel thousands of years ago wants to save us today. Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to our being saved is not knowing how much we need saving. In the gospel today we read of the woman caught in adultery. There is much we can learn from the way Jesus handles this situation. Notice that he does not minimize the seriousness of the sin. Rather, it is precisely because the woman knows that she is rightly condemned that she is then able to experience the joy of the merciful forgiveness of Jesus.

Do we try to minimize our sin, tell ourselves that “its’ not really that bad?” If we do this, not only are we lying to ourselves, but we can’t really experience the mercy of Jesus. To put it succinctly, if sin isn’t bad, then mercy isn’t good. We need not fear to acknowledge the true ugliness of our sin because we have a merciful God who died to take away that guilt. Bring it to him. He will not only forgive you, but then give you the power to do what he told the woman to do, “Go and sin no more.”

Homily 310 – Three Weapons Against Our Three Enemies – 1st Sunday of Lent

February 14th, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Jesusin the WildernessAs we begin the season of Lent, we see Jesus go out into the desert to be tempted. There he encounters the same enemies that you and I face every day: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Jesus is victories, and we can be too. Today’s homily looks at the three traditional weapons the Church gives us to fight these enemies: prayer, fasting, and alms-giving.

Homily 309 – Turnpike Mass for Life – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 31st, 2016, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Turnpike MassEven with the normal crowds of half a million or more, the March for Life almost never gets much coverage from the left-leaning media. With a major snow storm predicted to hit DC right at the time of the March, this year’s March was one of the smallest, only a couple hundred thousand (I know… not so small, right?), and thus got almost no coverage again. That is…until… until a bunch of buses on their way home got stuck for 22 hours on the Pennsylvania turnpike.

Not wanting to go a day without the Eucharist, students from these buses got out and…get this… built an altar out of snow and celebrated Mass with several hundred people on the side of the frozen turnpike. Now medial started covering this. Almost in spite of themselves, they had to report that all these people were coming from the March for Life in DC. The March got more coverage this year than any year I can remember.

This is the way God words. He takes what looks like a huge disappointment, and turns it into a great victory. Today’s homily points out some of the many ways that God did this in the past week. May we all take spiritual joy and confidence from these days, knowing that we win in the end despite whatever obstacles Satan thrown in our way.