I recently had the honor of being invited to give the keynote address to the annual Kansas Legislative Pro-Life Prayer breakfast. This is a gathering of all the pro-life senators and representatives from Kansas as well as many other guests. There were several hundred people filling the Sunflower Ball Room at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Topeka, including Senators Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts. I used some of my text from the homily I gave for the Mass for Life below, but here is the “live” video version of the address if you are interested. It really is amazing how God can place just a baby priest like me in this kind of situation. Praise the Holy Spirit!
Following is the text of the homily I gave at the annual Mass for Life held in Topeka on the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade. The Mass was held at Assumption Catholic Church across from the state capitol and judicial center where a large March for Life and rally had just concluded.
Mass for Life – January 22, 2009
My name is Fr. Shawn Tunink and I am the Associate Pastor at Most Pure Heart of Mary parish here in Topeka and also the chaplain at Hayden High School here. I’d like to welcome both those here from Topeka and especially those who have joined us from all across our great state of Kansas. Know that there are many others who would like to be here. Due to the limited space here, most of the students from Hayden and our grade schools have returned to school.
Although the walls of our church limit the numbers physically present, we gather here mindful that we do so in solidarity with many others. In parish churches and cathedrals all across the country today we gather to pray. Our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters who at this very moment are marching for life in Washington, D.C. The March for Life West Coast will soon be taking place in San Francisco. We join with those gathered in state capitols and government offices across the country. In the face of evil, one of the most important things we can do is to gather together to pray. Today, we most certainly are aware that we are not alone.
Our gathering today is one of mixed emotions. In the yearly cycle of celebrations on our church calendar, surely this is a day that we wish we did not have to commemorate. Yet, the spirit of this day is one of hope, and not merely a worldly hope or wish that somehow things would be different. It is a hope informed by our faith and centered in the love of God.
I remember being in Washington eight years ago for a different presidential inauguration. On that day many people were saying that there was now a great hope for the pro-life movement. In the previous years we had gathered in front of the White House knowing that the man inside would veto any meager pro-life legislation we might try to pass. Then, on that day, we had hope that the newly inaugurated president was one of us. We felt a renewed sense of optimism that we had an ally in the White House. This largely proved to be true over the last 8 years.
Today, our new president is undoubtedly the most pro-abortion president in history, and people are tempted to lose hope. In the face of legislation that could wipe out all the modest advances in pro-life legislation we’ve passed over the last 36 years, we might be tempted to lose hope. The lesson here is that we must not judge our success by what legislation we are able to pass. We must not put our hope in whoever the latest president might be, and we can never hope for an earthly Supreme Court to render the justice only God can give. Despite all of the clouds that gather around us we most surely gather in great hope today, for our hope is centered not on the things of this earth, but in God, a God who is faithful and assures us the victory.
On this day especially the pro-abortion forces look at us and ask, “Why are you still here? Don’t you know that this issue has been decided? It’s been 36 years, when are you going to go away?” Yet as we look around our church today and at the rallies here and across the country, we are encouraged by so many young faces. There are many here that have been fighting this battle for 36 years now and I’m sure it brings them great joy to see all of you young people here today. No, we’re not going anywhere. For those who have carried the touch these many years and continue to do so, we are thankful. For those students here for the first time, this torch is being passed to you and you give us great hope.
Those who favor abortion are indeed eager to see us give up. They are puzzled by the fact that we continue to fight so strongly and think they can end the debate by telling us simply, “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one.” We don’t have to go back too far in our nation’s history to arrive at the time when many people claimed “If you are opposed to owning slaves, then don’t own one.” That answer was not acceptable then, and it is not acceptable now. It was not hard to reason that if some people were only acknowledged to be 3/5ths of a person then our country could not last. Our Kansas “free state” ancestors knew the stakes were high and they were willing to go to war rather than quietly allow the country to self-destruct.
Today, we are met with claims that some people are even less than 3/5ths of a person; some people are not people at all. Or worse, maybe they really are people, but we should have the right to kill them anyway because they are inconvenient or unwanted…sadly oftentimes just…not useful. In the 1860’s they realized that, as sad as it was to think about the prospect of spilling American blood on our soil, it was worth going to war to save the nation. It was not enough to be personally opposed to slavery. The 3/5ths compromise did not bring peace then nor will compromise with evil bring peace now.
And so we must fight. Sadly, today we need not contemplate the future possibility of the shedding of American blood on American soil, for the blood of 50 million innocent children already stains our land and continues to flow. Rather than a future possibility, this is the sad present reality, and it is for this reason that we fight. We are at war to save our souls, the souls of our children and the soul of our nation. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “We are now met on a great battlefield of that war, testing whether this nation or any other nation can long endure.” We are here because we love our country and it is worth fighting for.
Yet, it is impossible to love our country if we fail to love our brothers and sisters. For that reason we are here today to pray for the innocent children in danger of abortion. We are here today to stand up for women who have been victimized by the abortion industry. We are here today in solidarity with our elderly brothers and sisters who are suffering at the end of their lives and see no reason to live. We are here today to pray for inmates on death row. We are here today to appeal to scientists and doctors not to use their God-given talents to destroy the very lives they should be trying to save. We are here today to tell our elected officials that no legislation that removes the freedom of choice for people of conscience to object to abortion, or removes the freedom of choice for parents to be involved in the lives of their teenage daughters, or that forces tax payers to fund the murder of children…we are here today to say that no such legislation could ever be called a “freedom of choice act” and is not worthy to even be spoken of in the hallowed halls of our capitol.
Most importantly, we are here today because we love God and we know that this is a war that we cannot win on our own. This is a war whose first shots were fired when Satan chose to use his freedom to tell God, “I will not serve.” The battle over abortion is just the latest battle in the ongoing war of the kingdom of God verses the kingdom of Satan. St. Paul reminds us that our fight is not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers. Therefore our weapons must be those of prayer and fasting, humility, and most importantly…love. We fight with love. Only the God who is love can overcome the cycle of fear, hate, and death in which we are now trapped. If we fight through, with, and in his love, there is no doubt who wins this war in the end.
In scripture we read that our Israelite ancestors, in order to purge themselves of the collective sin of their community, would gather each year and symbolically lay the guilt of all onto a goat which they would then drive out into the desert, the so-called “scapegoat.” Today we gather in similar fashion to do penance for the sins of our nation and seek to drive the sin of abortion far away from our land. We may have no goat with us today on which to lay this guilt, but we have something better. We have the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of not just our nation, but the sins of the world.
The book of Revelation sings about this lamb and it is filled with hymns of victory. The lamb is victorious over sin and death. Today, although we are indeed met on a great battlefield of this ongoing war, we are also here to remind ourselves that we are the winners. We are here to claim victory! Although the final victory still awaits us, in the timelessness of the Eucharistic sacrifice which we are about to offer, we join the angels and saints as they sing their hymn of victory with the lamb. We join with St. Michael and all the holy angels as they celebrate their victory over the angels of darkness. And yes, we join with the souls of all the victims of abortion who stand around the throne and urge us on in the fight, that one day we might join them.
Often war seems to bring out the worst in people. But as we have said, this is a different kind of war. Whenever we in the pro-life movement gather you cannot help but notice that there you will find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness…as our 8th graders could probably tell you…all the fruits of the Holy Spirit. To confront the evil spirit that we must battle, we need the Holy Spirit.
To wherever there is darkness, confusion and death, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To wherever there is fear and doubt, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To wherever women are alone and feel they have no choice, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To homes and families broken by abortion, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the bedside of the suffering and dying, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the laboratories of scientists who would experiment with life, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the halls of justice near death row, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To Wichita and all cities stained with the blood of the abortion mills, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To doctors who have forgotten what it means to be instruments of healing, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the halls of our legislatures, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To our Supreme Court buildings, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the office of our governor and the oval office, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the hearts of all men and women whose hearts are hardened against life, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
To the hearts of all who long to see the day when life will be victorious, we pray…Come, Holy Spirit
Almighty God, this battle is one that we cannot and do not fight alone. We need your help and healing. Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you will renew the face of the earth. May it be so. Amen
One of the most famous lines from the Declaration of Independence includes the following familiar words:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In yesterday’s inaugural address, President Obama restated the text this way:
“The time has come to…carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”
Though subtle, there are major differences between these two citations that I think tell us some very important things about our new President, but also about the spirit of the age in which we live.
In the Declaration the principles being affirmed are called self-evident truths. Notice that there is no mention of truth in the President’s restatement. Instead, we have a “noble idea.” Self-evident truth implies an objective reality that is clearly known by all. An “idea” exists in subjective reality. It is not self-evident and true in itself. Rather it must be “passed on from generation to generation” to be accepted or rejected as people see fit.
In the Declaration we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights. In the rewrite there are no rights that are given by a higher power. Rather what is given is a “promise” that we already are equal, free etc. We need to really look hard at the differences between the two texts here because they show some very critical differences in world views.
For one thing, notice that the idea of a Creator is removed from the rewrite. If we are created then this implies that we are inferior to and dependent upon the one who created us. It is much more comfortable for our modern independent mindset to reduce the Creator down to “God” who can remain as a distant and merely observing power.
Look carefully also at the difference between a “right” and a “promise.” The Declaration says we have rights that are inherent in our creation. This is a statement of fact that does not depend on anyone’s opinion. What does it even mean to say that God would “promise” that “all are equal?” Notice the omission again of the notion of creation. Either people are inherently equal or they are not; either they have rites or they don’t. There is no such thing as a “promise” of truth.
Finally, let’s compare the lists of rights/promises:
Declaration – “All men are created equal” / Obama - “All are equal”
Declaration – “Liberty” / Obama – “All are free”
Declaration – “Pursuit of happiness” / Obama “…pursue their full measure of happiness”
Let’s see…equality…liberty…pursuit of happiness…
The right to LIFE!
Don’t think that the changes made in President Obama’s rewrite of the Declaration of Independence were done casually. Each change reflects a diliberate rejection of the world view espoused by the founders. Most especially, don’t think for one minute that the right to life was accidentally left off the list of “promises.”
Yesterday my parents came to visit me at the parish. We decided to devote the day to Kansas history by going to the Kansas Museum of History here in Topeka. I believe I had been to this museum when I was in grade school, but I don’t remember. For those who did not grow up in Kansas or are otherwise unfamiliar with Kansas lore, here is a picture our state mammal.
This is of course the great American Bison (scientific name bison bison). This is our state mammal and not our state animal because, as every good Kansan knows, the three-toed box turtle is our state reptile and the honey bee is our state insect. Did you notice the fine depiction of the state flower in the background? The prairie dogs are of course cute, but not official anything’s.
Here is another shot of a buffalo outside with a Kansa Indian from which the name of our great state is taken:
Here is a rare close-up of me with a subspecies of the majestic, yet friendly and petable, state mammal, the bison bison stonis statuis
After our time at the Museum of Kansas history I got to add my contribution to this Tunink family Kansas history “Day O’ Fun”.
Thanks to a very wonderful parishioner I had some very wonderful tickets for the KU game. When I say very wonderful, I can’t emphasize this enough as this picture was taken from my actual seat. I dare say I will never have better seats in Allen Fieldhouse in my life. After so many years of seeing games from the band, this was a real treat. To close out this Kansas History day, I leave you with two of the most important artifacts in Kansas History:
It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog and many people have been asking what I’m up to. Well, being a priest has been keeping me busy…but I love it. Yesterday was my “day off” and I was kind of sad because I had to force myself to stay away from the high school so as to “take a break.” I was back at it today, however, and we’ve got a football game with a big cross city rival tonight. That leaves me a few minutes to provide some unique and interesting insights into my present state of affairs.
For this update, I thought would focus on an exciting new leisure time activity I’m working on. I have always loved planes and flying. I recently attended an air show in Kansas City with my dad and saw the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Whenever I get a new computer, the motivating factor is normally because I need better speed for my flight simulator. I have been doing flying lessons on my computer for years now and especially enjoy all the instrument navigation.
Despite all the simulator fun, I always told myself that when I finally got settled down somewhere I would look into actually learning how to fly. Well, I decided that time was now and so I went to the local airport here in Topeka to see about getting my private pilot’s license. It turned out it was going to be at least $7,000 and probably more like $10,000. That just doesn’t work for a priest, so I decided to go back to my computer.
Well, the next weekend I ran into some parishioners who are partners in an airplane. One of them is even a flight instructor and we worked it out so that I could take my first ride in a small plane. Here is a picture of the plane:
Whoops! That’s actually the F-14 Tomcat that I visited at the Combat Air Museum here in Topeka. I got to touch it but not actually fly it. Sorry. Here’s the plane that I actually flew in:
That’s me and my flight instructor, Jay, along with the Piper Comanche that I piloted. When I say I piloted, I do in fact mean that I was the pilot. When we got ready to get in the plane I thought I would be lucky just to sit in the front seat. Instead, Jay told me that I was going to be in the left seat as the pilot. I got to take off, fly around, and even land. Yes, that’s right, I landed the plane on my first time flying. There were dual controls, so Jay assured me he wouldn’t let me crash. Luckily it didn’t come to that and I did my first bit of piloting all by myself. Here are some action shots:
That’s the Kansas River down there
Don’t I look focused?
Here I am aligned for my perfect (well, almost) first landing
This was a wonderful experience and got me excited about flying. Still, the expense is remains a bit of a problem. However, it turns out that Jay is not only a Certified Flight Instructor, but is an advisor for a local Explorer Post of Air Scouts. Being that I’m the chaplain for all the scouts in the Archdiocese, I’ve decided I need to get to know these Air Scouts. I’m going to their ground school each Saturday morning which is great and, eventually, I may get to fly and work on my license. We’ll see. I’m kind of waiting to see where God leads in all this. If He opens a path that will be within a priest’s budget, then this may work. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks to Daric for being my passenger and back seat photographer on my inaugural voyage. I hope there are many more.
I have finally moved into my new home at Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Topeka, KS. I have been assigned here as the Associate Pastor (Parochial Vicar in church law). I am also the Chaplain for Hayden High School here in Topeka as well as Chaplain to the Archdiocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting. So, I’ve definitely got enough to keep my busy. Right now I’m just working on getting everything out of my boxes and into their new homes.
I haven’t done much with my blog since ordination as I’ve been very busy. Almost immediately after being ordained I returned to Mundelein Seminary in Chicago to finish an advanced degree. I graduated in May with a Master of Divinity degree in the “secular” system and a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology in the “ecclesiastical” system. I returned to complete a Licentiate in Sacred Theology which is kind of like a PhD “all but dissertation” (ABD). I took a couple classes and then had my final comprehensive exam before the board, which I passed. The only thing left now is to write my thesis. I did a lot of research while I was back at school, but now I need to find the time to write.
This next week I am headed to the National Training Center of the Boy Scouts to learn more about being a Scout Chaplain. The center is located at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico where I’ve been backpacking twice before. I haven’t really had much “down” time yet this summer, so this will be good. There will be lots of classes, but just to be out in the scenic beautiful of Philmont will be a refreshing change of pace. When I get back I intend to be more regular in updating my blog. Thanks to all who have made my first two months of priesthood so wonderful.
Over Thanksgiving break I had much to be thankful for. Most important of all was the fact that on November 17th Archbishop Joseph Naumann ordained me a transitional deacon. It was an amazing day with so many of my family and friends present to join in the celebration. The above picture shows the archbishop, as successor of the apostles, passing on the grace of Holy Orders to me in the way it has always been done, with the laying on of hands. He then prayed the beautiful prayer of ordination that forever made me a deacon. What an amazing grace! I liked it so much that I hope to be ordained again in May…a priest this time!
The day after my ordination I served as a deacon of the Mass and preached my first homily. I’ve been excited for a long time to be able to preach and I look forward to many homilies in the future.
One of the other great highlights of this weekend was that I got to baptize my little nephew, Tanner. I think this might have been the time that I most enjoyed. He’s a great little kid and was pretty well behaved as far as babies go. Parents and family did pretty well too.
Yes, I think I’m going to like being a deacon. But, there is another big date that I’m looking forward to. That means May 24th when I’m ordained a priest! Many thanks to all of my friends and family that came to help celebrate this great day. Pray that God will help me to be a good and faithful servant.
Well, today was the day that I guess had to come…our last day in the Holy Land. After attending Mass here at Notre Dame I went into the Old City to pick up some final gifts for friends and family and to make one last visit to some special places. It seems like we just got here and its already time to leave. This has been such an amazing experience. I can’t begin to summarize it here, so I won’t try to fit it all into this one entry. Suffice it to say that the people I’ve met and the places I’ve visited have changed my life and will continue to do so long into the future. Most of all, I think this pilgrimage has made me excited for the future. I am excited to be a priest. I am overwhelmed by God’s call and humbled to think that He would call me to follow after Him in this special way just as he called those early disciples. Many of my classmates will be ordained Deacons in the coming months and my own ordination in November will be here before I know it. This evening I made my farewell visit to the Holy Sepulcher and prayed especially that I will be a good witness to Jesus and his Gospel which I have experienced here in a way so real that you can reach out and touch it.
Now, it is time for me to get to bed. We leave here in the middle of the night to catch an early flight out tomorrow morning. About a third of the group will be returning to Chicago and a semester break. For me and the rest of the class, we are off to a few more weeks of extended travel in Europe. For myself, I will follow in the footsteps of Peter and Paul and head to Rome. We just read in the Acts of the Apostles how Paul was shipwrecked on his way to Rome, so I hope not to follow that closely in the footsteps of the Apostles. I also hope to return to the United States in a few weeks rather than die a martyr in Rome, but we’ll leave that up to God. It is sad to have this part of my pilgrimage over, but my heart is full. I am also looking forward to a good time with friends in Rome. I’ve been there before and will be able to relax and get in some good prayer. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my travels in the Land of the Bible. It is truly an amazing experience that I recommend to anyone who can do it. I will try to provide some updates of my continuing pilgrimage in Rome, but for now, I’m signing off from the Holy Land. Shalom and good night.
Today we had a day of reflection to review our entire pilgrimage. We are leaving after tomorrow, so we wanted to take a day just to think and pray about all that we’ve experienced. Part of this we did at Notre Dame, but the most important part of the day was our trip to the Mt. of Olives one last time. We had Mass and reflection time at the church of Dominus Flevit. There is a wonderful view of the city from here as I’ve mentioned before. It was amazing to sit there and pray the Rosary and literally look at each site where the mysteries of the Rosary took place. I thought of the Holy Sepulcher and the resurrection. Jesus ascended to heaven only a few yards from where I was praying. I could see Mt. Zion where the Holy Spirit came to the upper room on Pentecost. There too is the Church of the Dormition so readily visible where Mary was assumed into heaven. As I sat looking over the whole city I prayed that Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, and Queen of Peace, would rule over this city whose very name means the City of Peace. We wrapped up our day with some group sharing about our pilgrimage experience. What an amazing time it has been. It seems like only yesterday we arrived in Bethlehem.
Speaking of Bethlehem, to end our pilgrimage where we started we returned to Bethlehem tonight for a special farewell dinner. As we crossed the checkpoint and entered the city the streets all seemed so familiar. In many ways it felt like coming home. The restaurant prepared an entire stuffed lamb for us (literally, lying right on a big platter) and all the traditional Palestinian salads that we’ve come to love. It was a time to thank all those who made our pilgrimage possible and to really thank God for all the blessings we’ve experienced. After visiting one of the shop keepers who we had come to know very well I got to say one last goodbye to the Church of the Nativity. I thanked Jesus for coming as one like us and making not just this particular land Holy, but making the whole world and each one of us holy. Although I have enjoyed the entire pilgrimage, I found it difficult to leave Bethlehem for the last time tonight. It is a special place and I know I will return there many times in prayer in the future.
Last night we got a tip from our travel agent that we should probably stay out of the Old City today. The tensions that I mentioned earlier over the new ramp to the Temple Mount are heating up and there were supposed to be demonstrations today. Friday is the Muslim holy day and their leaders used their weekly worship of God this week to incite a riot on the Temple Mount. CNN was showing what seemed to be the same pictures over and over. In truth, yes, there was some violence, but it was actually not nearly as bad as what CNN was trying to show. You really have to take what the western media shows with a grain of salt. You would have thought that all of Jerusalem was about to go up in smoke and yet I was about a half mile from where all this was happening and you wouldn’t have even known it. Still, there is definitely a heightened state of alert here. This ramp doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal to me, but it doesn’t take much in this city to create a war. So, maybe it’s good that we will be leaving in a few days. It will be interesting to read about this in the news back home. The end result today was that we basically stayed at Notre Dame all day and studied. Hopefully things will be better tomorrow.