Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Homily Podcast



The Good Word on Kennedy, Eulogies, and Catholic Funerals

Posted: September 1st, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Cardinal O'Malley Incenses the Body of Edward Kennedy

This past weekend’s funeral Mass for Sen. Edward Kennedy has been the cause of scandal for many people, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

Many question whether or not Sen. Kennedy should have been given the “honor” of a Catholic funeral. Given that no lawmaker ever did more to champion the cause of abortion on demand than Sen. Kennedy, it is understandable that people would be concerned that he would not be eligible for a Catholic funeral. If he had not repented from his position this would in fact be the case. However, the Church allows that, if one repents at the end of one’s life, he or she is entitled to Christian burial. It appears that Sen. Kennedy did call for a priest at the end of his life and did receive the sacraments. While this is certainly not the public repentance demanded by the very public sins of his life, the Church is very lenient and errs on the side of mercy if there exists even minimal evidence of “repentance.” I therefore concur with notable canon lawyer Ed Peters that Sen. Kennedy was entitled to a Catholic funeral Mass (go here for detailed information why).

That having been said, I do believe that the funeral Mass was a huge scandal. The reason the Church is lenient in allowing Christian burial for even minimally repentant public sinners is precisely because the central purpose of the funeral Mass is to implore God’s mercy for the deceased. To a point, you could say the bigger the sinner, the more appropriate a funeral Mass would be. Having a funeral Mass is in not intended to “honor” the person. The sadness of this particular funeral was that someone who very much needed our prayers instead received only praise. Tragically, the uncharitable pretended ignorance of the man’s grave sins cost him the one thing that could have really helped him, the potential prayers of thousands.

Perhaps the most serious scandal of this funeral Mass was that all this praise being heaped upon Sen. Kennedy was really not for him at all. The real purpose of so much show and ceremony was to provide reassurance to all those Catholics who, like Kennedy, reject the teaching authority of the Church. Can you still be a “good Catholic” and be in favor of abortion? Apparently. To the average person, here was “the Church” heaping countless praises upon the champion of abortion, homosexual activity, and scores of other moral outrages that the Church is supposedly against. What clearer teaching could there be? Actions speak louder than words.

Again, I am not saying that there shouldn’t have been a funeral Mass. I even think it should have been every bit as big and public as it was. I just wish it would have actually been a Catholic funeral Mass. What took place in Boston this weekend was a secular funeral shoved into a Catholic church. I actually hoped that the Cardinal would in fact preach and would use well the “teachable moment.” So many so-called Catholic politicians are leading lives in the same disastrous state as Sen. Kennedy. Here was a perfect opportunity to truly exercise the “care of souls” in an urgently needed way. Instead, more fuel was added to the already blazing scandal of Catholics in political life.

Might I suggest that much of the scandal of this weekend would have been avoided if an actual Catholic funeral Mass would have been celebrated according to the instructions for such a Mass. As I said, the central focus of the Mass is to pray for mercy upon the deceased. This is done with time-honored prayers and chants. The one thing that is not at all characteristic of a Catholic funeral is a speech. The Mass is for prayer, not making speeches, eulogies, remembrances, or whatever else you want to throw in. The instructions for the funeral Mass are clear:

“At the funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind.” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal #382)

Why were there not just one, but three eulogies at this so-called “funeral Mass?” Why were the General Intercessions perverted into political statements quoted from political speeches? The list of abuses goes on and on. If you just follow the instructions for Mass, most of what took place this weekend would not have happened.

The ancient counsel of the Church is evident here; lex orandi, lex credendi- the way we pray reflects and shapes what we believe. The manner of prayer this weekend (if you could call it prayer) clearly states that we believe that the good deeds done in life are sufficient to outweigh any sins, no matter how great and, most tragically, that the dead do not need our prayers. That is obviously what the people assembled in Boston believed as evidenced by how they prayed. The final scandal is to think about how people might have been helped to believe correctly if they had just prayed correctly.

May the soul of Edward Kennedy and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Homily 21 – Monday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

Posted: August 31st, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Catholic Rapture

Perhaps you’ve heard various Protestant groups refer to something they call “The Rapture.” It can all be rather confusing as they speak of hoping to be “raptured” away from this life and speeded away to heaven. Catholics naturally back away from this idea of “rapture” because it doesn’t sound like anything Jesus every talked about nor anything the Fathers of the Church mentioned. While most of the Protestant understanding of rapture is based on misreading the Bible, there is a biblical idea of rapture.

In the first reading today, St. Paul speaks of the final judgement and the last day at the end of time. All those who have died will of course rise from the dead. But what about those who are still alive at the second coming? These, St. Paul says, will be “caught up” (in Greek…”raptured”) to meet Jesus in the air. So, yes, Catholics believe in a rapture. The problem is that the Protestant notion takes this idea and combines it with the teaching in Revelation that there will be a “thousand year” period of “tribulation” before the end of the world.

The Protestant belief is that those who are “good” should not have to undergo this tribulation and thus will be “raptured” out of the world ahead of time. Obviously this is not scriptural and denies a key part of Christianity. “In the world you will have tribulation, but have courage, for I have overcome the world.” Jesus is not going to save us from this world by preventing our suffering. Rather he gives meaning to our suffering. If we fight the good fight through this life as St. Paul did, then we will indeed be with Jesus on the last day. That will be a truly, and biblically sound, rapturous day.

Homily 20 – Memorial of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist

Posted: August 29th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Uncomfortable Call of the Prophet

We often think of a prophet as someone who foretells the future. Yet, the primary job of a prophet is to speak not about the future, but about what is going on right now. The prophet stands in the midst of the present situation and is able to see things with God’s eyes and boldly speak out, “Thus says the Lord!”

The truth is that we really don’t like prophets very much. We tend to want to settle into a pattern of life that is comfortable and little by little we compromise with the societal forces around us. It’s easy to just keep on going this way, like the proverbial frog in the pot as the water keeps getting hotter and hotter. The prophet is the one who breaks in and disrupts this status quo.

John the Baptist was called “The greatest of all prophets” by Our Lord. It was finally his preaching against divorce and remarriage that led to his execution which we commemorate today. As the temperature in the pot continues to rise all around us today, we could use a few good prophets like St. John the Baptist. We are kind of in comfort mode right now, compromising our prophetic role for the sake of “political correctness” or mistaken ideas of being “pastoral.” Are there some prophets out there who are willing to stand up and call us to jump out of the pot?

Homily 19 – Memorial of St. Augustine

Posted: August 28th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Learning from the Life of St. Augustine

Today we celebrate a saint that had perhaps the most famous conversion in the history of the Church. Yet, there were many other people that helped St. Augustine to finally turn back to God. First, his mother, Monica, raised him well and taught him the faith from an early age. Second, in adulthood St. Augustine needed another teacher who could help his adult mind to come to a deeper insight into the faith. Augustine found this kind of teacher in St. Ambrose who was instrumental in his conversion. Finally, the thing most responsible for this famous conversion was grace. Augustine went on to to write so much on God’s free gift of grace. It is a gift that Augustine knew well in his own life and is God’s gift to all of us.

Homily 18 – Hayden High School 2009 Opening Mass

Posted: August 26th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Lessons from the Lunar Landing

[The following homily was given at the opening all-school Mass at Hayden High School in Topeka. It represents a summary of three talks given the they Hayden faculty retreat on August 10th. Those talks can be found at the following links:]

This summer we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first landing of man on the moon. As we recall this event, there are 3 lessons that provide helpful insights as we begin a new school year. First, the entire mission to the moon would have never happened without the vision and leadership of President John F. Kennedy. He set the goal of landing on the moon by the end of 1969 and this goal gave direction to every decision made. We too need to have clear goals. We will never arrive at where we need to be if we don’t have a clear picture of where we’re going.

Secondly, we shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes. It took many many failures along the path that eventually led to the lunar landing. The rocket scientists had to watch rocket after rocket explode right in front of them in a great ball of fire. Yet, they learned from their mistakes and didn’t quit. How many times do we give up because we fail? Perhaps our biggest failure is that we never set challenging goals because we’re too afraid we might not reach them. Kennedy’s goal was a very challenging one and lots of people could have given up but didn’t. We need to have the courage to “fail well” as we risk achieving great things.

Finally, there is an important lesson to be learned from the mission of Apollo 8. This was the first time we ever flew away from the earth and went to the moon. We didn’t land of course, but we discovered something very important. The astronauts had trained very hard to learn everything they could about the moon. They had planned every moment of their trip with countless checklists, including every picture they would take. However, they found themselves completely unprepared for the surprise that awaited them when they got to the moon. As they came around the dark side of the moon and into daylight they saw something unexpected…the earth. They had to scramble to find their cameras to take the unexpected prize pictures. Astronaut Bill Anders remarked that they had concentrated all their training on learning about the moon and yet, when they got there, the most important thing they discovered was the earth. In the midst of all our plans and goals, don’t be surprised if God gets in there and throws in a few unexpected wrinkles. This is good. There are lots of things to learn this year, but don’t be surprised if along the way you learn a few things you hadn’t planned on…and those just might turn out to be the most important.

Homily 17 – Feast of St. Bartholomew

Posted: August 24th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

God Sees Us

The Apostle Bartholomew is believed to be the same Apostle also called Nathaniel. Today’s gospel speaks of how Philip brought Nathaniel to Jesus just as we all need to bring others to know Jesus. Nathaniel has a powerful encounter with Jesus that leads to him becoming one of The Twelve. Perhaps Nathaniel was feeling down and wondering if God heard his prayers. “Do you see me?” he might have prayed. Jesus says “Before Philip called you, I saw you.” He sees each of us as well. We don’t really know much about St. Bartholomew, but maybe this in itself is a good lesson. You don’t have to do extraordinary deeds and be written about in the history books in order to be holy. Bartholomew was a “true child of Israel” and a true follower of Jesus. May the same be said for all of us.

Homily 16 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: August 23rd, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Finding Freedom Through Commitment

We are so blessed in this country to have many choices. We have the freedom to choose everything from where we worship, where we live, and even what we eat. Yet, all these choices can lead us to a sort of paralysis of decision. What should I choose? We are experiencing in our society what might be called a crisis of commitment. Some people think that maintaining our freedom means “keeping all our options open.” However, you probably can’t think of anyone whom you admire who is famous for “keeping all their options open” and going through life without committing to anything. Rather it is precisely our commitments in life that define who were are.

Our readings this weekend are all about these two things: choices and commitment. In the first reading, Joshua and the Israelites boldly choose to worship the true God. In our second reading, St. Paul reminds us of the beautiful commitment expressed in marriage. Husband and wife joyfully commit to each other in marriage and thus become “subordinate,” ordered to each other, or “submissive,” under a common mission. Does such a commitment close the door on some options…yes, but the result is not a lessening of freedom, but the finding of a new and greater freedom. Once you are in your vocation there is a great freedom knowing where your life is going and with whom.

In the Gospel, Jesus asks for a commitment of his disciples. He gives them the choice of accepting his teaching or parting ways. Sadly, St. John tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples left him. We might think that perhaps there was a misunderstanding, but then Jesus turns to the apostles and is willing to let them go too if they can’t commit to what he is asking. What could be so important that Jesus would allow everyone to leave if they can’t accept it? It’s the Eucharist! Jesus has just told his disciples that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life. Those who were there understood Jesus literally and Jesus made it plain to them that he was not speaking symbolically. Thus many leave rather than trust in his words. The Eucharist is the sacred sign of total commitment to Jesus and of being his follower.

Today Jesus requires no less of a commitment from us if we are going to receive him in the Eucharist. St. Paul uses the image of marriage to describe the love that should exist between us and Jesus. Just as you can’t get married half way or choose only certain things of your spouse that you will marry, so you can’t take only part of what Jesus teaches and still be a member of his Church. Jesus wants a total commitment from us, a commitment that is expressed in our eating his body and drinking his blood in the Most Holy Eucharist. This is where we become one flesh with Jesus in the marriage banquet celebrated at every Mass. Today we renew the wedding vows made to God in Holy Baptism and are then invited to share in the wedding supper of the lamb. What a beautiful choice.

Homily 15 – Memorial of St. Pius X

Posted: August 21st, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

God Works Through the Unexpected

Today and tomorrow our first readings are taken from the Old Testament book of Ruth. This short book tells the story of a very important person in God’s plan of salvation. Every year during Advent we read what seems to be that rather long and boring geneology of Jesus. “So and so begat so and so” and on and on and on until we are finally relieved to arrive at Jesus. In St. Matthew’s geneology it is of particular importance that he includes several women in the list. This would not have been expected and the women he includes are equally unexpected. Ruth is one of those women.

The inclusion of Ruth in God’s plan of slavation is interesting because Ruth is not even an Israelite. She is of the clan of Moab. However, through God’s providence she ends up converting to the faith of Israel and marries Boaz of Bethlehem. Together they have a son named Obed who then becomes the father of Jesse who is of course the father of King David. God has always worked in the unexpected and we shouldn’t be surprised to find that true in our own lives. God took a poor Moabite girl and made her the great grandmother of the most famous king in the history of Israel. Imagine what God might be doing with the unexpected events in your life!

Homily 14 – Memorial of St. John Eudes

Posted: August 19th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Need for Personal Lawncare

The classic 1954 movie “On the Waterfront” with Marlon Brando has a scene that is very similar to today’s gospel. All the longshoremen show up at the docks in the morning hoping to get work. The foreman comes out and picks from all those present. Some are chosen for work that day and others have to go home perhaps with no food with which to feed their families, hoping to try again tomorrow. The landowner in the gospel does something strange though. He keeps going back to get more workers. It doesn’t seem that he needs them, but he just can’t bear the thought of them going home with nothing. This is a great image for God. He keeps calling us. It doesn’t matter how early or late we get called; we just need to go.

Notice also the fiasco at the end of the day. The workers that were chosen first should be happy that they had work that day. Instead they start to look around at what others get and they become angry. The lesson here is that we need to stop comparing ourselves with others. How often do we find ourselves content with life and then we get distracted by trying to “keep up with the Jones’?” We often lose the happiness we should have from our unique call from God by comparing ourselves with others. If you find yourself thinking that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, maybe it’s time to start watering your own lawn.

More on the Lanciano Miracle

Posted: August 18th, 2009, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

This weekend I spoke in my homily about the famous Eucharistic miracle of Lanciano that occurred in 750 in Italy. Many people have asked for more information. You can certainly search the internet for “Lanciano” and you’ll find plenty. I thought I might draw your attention to a video that I saw recently that was new even to me. The video is of a presentation given by a doctor who I believe was an atheist and converted to Catholicism after the experience he describes.

A Eucharistic miracle similar to the one I described in Lanciano apparently took place in Buenos Aires in the 1990’s. I mentioned that there have been many other miracles like Lanciano over the years, so I wasn’t particularly surprised to hear of one in Buenos Aires. What struck me about this particular presentation were some key similarities between the known miracle in Lanciano and this new one in Argentina.

Apparently a consecrated host began to show signs of a sort of bleeding. The doctor indicates that he gave a sample to be tested by multiple independent doctors who didn’t know where the sample came from. They each reported the same conclusion, that the sample was from a human heart. Additionally, they also reported that the tissue showed the strange sign of responding as living tissue and was actually beating.

I was of course noticing that all of this sounded very similar to what was found with the Lanciano miracle. The speaker then goes on to mention the Lanciano miracle and he too notes the similarities. Then he says something that really made me stop for a second. I don’t fully get the details from the video, but apparently he was able to compare his results with the results of the doctor who did the Lanciano investigation and they were able to determine from the DNA that the samples from Lanciano from 750 and from Argentina in 1996 are from the same person!

I always knew that the blood type of the Lanciano sample was found to be AB and that this matched the blood type from the blood on the famous Shroud of Turin, also AB. However, being able to link this miracle in Buenos Aires to Lanciano as being not just the same blood type but matching DNA of the same person…well that’s really something now. Does anyone have more info on this connection or more official scientific results? The video is certainly worth a watch and I’d like to find out more myself.

Watch the Video

One of Many Websites with Info on Lanciano