Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 269 – The Risky Hillside City – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: February 9th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

City of Tiberias
The Hillside City of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of a city on a mountain or hill not being able to be hidden. Perhaps we might think of a city high up on a mountain. When I went to Galilee to the spot where Jesus spoke these works, I found that he might be referring to something different. A city set on a hill might be something more like the city of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. It is literally “set on a hill” by being built into the hillside. You can see each successive terrace of the city as it climbs higher and higher. Indeed such a city cannot be hidden, especially at night.

Today we look at the city of Tiberias at night and think how beautiful it is. Yet, when Jesus spoke about such a city, his apostles would have though also about how dangerous it is. In the ancient world you constantly had to worry about your city being attacked. For protection you could make high walls or, better yet, completely hide the city underground. A city that could be hidden was a safe city, a “city that cannot be hidden” as Jesus spoke of was a dangerous city.

Despite the dangers, Jesus clearly wants his disciples and his Church today to take the riskier path of being a city exposed for all to see. We are to let our light shine. The readings today tell us that the best way to do this is not just with words, as St. Paul cautions, but with our actions. We know that if we stand for moral principles, bear witness to the truth, live our faith in public, then we will be exposed and vulnerable to attack like a city on a hillside. Yet this is what we are called to do.

When we know this we shouldn’t be surprised that we get singled out for special scrutiny or that the devil seems to be constantly putting up obstacles. If you’re under attack, it means you are doing real damage to Satan’s kingdom, it means you have a city that is worth attacking. Good for you! It won’t be easy, but it’s worth the risk. In the end, there are two options. We can build our city on a hillside with all the opportunity and danger that go together or we can try to hide underground where it will be safer. Which city do you want your life to be?

An Extraordinary Day

Posted: January 30th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Lourdes Chapel - National ShrineLourdes Chapel at the National Shrine

People who know me know how much I love the liturgy. I obviously love celebrating it, but also studying and coming to understand it better. Yet, more and more there has been one issue that has kept coming back up as something to put on my “to do” list: The Extraordinary Form…the “Old (Latin) Mass” from 1962.

Well, I have a sort of confession to make. Over Christmas break I finally decided I needed to learn what this Mass was all about, so I went and got some training. I can now report that today, on the feast of St. Martina in the traditional calendar, I celebrated the Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the first time in the Lourdes Chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here in Washington.

Now, before anyone begins to label me some kind of “radical traditionalist,” you should know that I have really not been a fan of the 1962 Mass. I’m too young to have ever attended it growing up. Moreover, I have always felt that our primary goal has got to be to make the regular Sunday celebration of the Mass a much more sacred and transcendent experience. I was not a fan of the indult that existed under John Paul II. I at least wasn’t a fan of young people going to this. In my mind, the indult existed for those who couldn’t change, but it would eventually go away.

Pope Benedict caused me to have to do some rethinking of all this. As you may be aware, in 2007 Pope Benedict did away with the indult or “special permission” that a priest would have previously needed to celebrate according to the 1962 missal. Moreover, he seemed to be saying that all priests should know how to celebrate this Mass if their people asked for it. His desire, like mine, was to restore sacredness to the liturgy, but he wanted to do it through what he called a “mutual enrichment” between the 1962 Mass and the contemporary Mass. I could see that this wasn’t just a plan to allow certain people to remain wrapped in the nostalgia of the past, but a real way forward. This was not a return to the past but, in a way, a chance to perhaps go more slowly and get right some of the things that went wrong with liturgical reform after the Second Vatican Council.

I have to admit that, although I could see what Pope Benedict wanted to happen, I wasn’t completely on board. I still worried that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite as he now called it would create division and isolated groups. I thought that Latin would be a barrier to full, conscious, and active participation in the Liturgy. Would it ever be normal to have an Extraordinary Form Mass on the normal schedule at most parishes, an option no different than going to a guitar Mass? That was clearly the plan, but I wondered.

It’s been six years now and the Extraordinary Form is gaining in popularity amongst some pretty amazing Catholics that I have met. I finally decided that I needed to get on board with this. If nothing else, my research into the pre-Vatican II rites of Holy Week showed me how much I really didn’t understand what Mass was like before the Council. I knew some things, but the only way to really understand what that Mass was all about was to do it.

So I did it. And you know what…I’m glad I did. For having loved the liturgy for so long, I’m amazed at how I was able to study so much of “liturgical history” and yet never really get into the nuts and bolts of how the Mass was celebrated. There is a reason why the Holy Spirit inspired Pope Benedict to preserve this Mass, not just in a book but as an ongoing lived experience. Pope Francis too has said that he intends this to continue. This is clearly of the mind of the Church and this is always where I want to be.

With all that said, I think it important to end with this point. Someone asked me today after having celebrated if I had found the Extraordinary Form to be the incredibly amazing and powerful experience that clearly he expected I should have. I said to him simply that “it was Mass.” It was a different book with different words and gestures, but it was Holy Mass, and I had the same joy that I have every day to wake up as a priest and know that I get to make Jesus present and that he gives himself to me.

I don’t know exactly what I’ll do with this now. I consider it to be one more tool in the pastoral tool bag. Over the course of these years since the changes of Pope Benedict I’ve had people, young people even, come to me and ask if I could please celebrate the Extraordinary Form for them since they know that I love the liturgy. To this point, I’ve always had to say no. Now I have something else to offer my people for their spiritual edification. I might even find that praying these beautiful prayers, the exact ones, which sustained the greatest saints in the Church for 1500 years…well, it might just lead to my spiritual edification too. Prosit pro omnibus et singulis.

Homily 268 – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: January 19th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Prophets for Life

Today’s readings speak to us of two great prophets, Isaiah and John the Baptist. We tend to think of a prophet as someone who predicts the future. Yet the role of a true prophet of God is to speak the word of God to the world right now. The message might concern the future, but more importantly it concerns what God is saying to us right now. Everyone who is baptized has received the call to be a prophet, to speak on behalf of God. This homily was given to a church filled with young people preparing for the March for Life this week. They are prophets, speaking for God and speaking for those who cannot speak.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day tomorrow, I am reminded of the prophetic gathering in Washington 50 years ago for the famous “I have a dream speech.” I remember seeing the pictures growing up of the national mall covered with people. Coming to my first March for Life 14 years ago, I felt that this was my generation’s chance for a moment like that, to be prophets. The media doesn’t give much coverage to the March for Life, but the truth is that there are twice as many people in Washington for the March for Life as were in Washington 50 years ago…and this event happens not once, but every year!

It’s not easy being a prophet. Yet, I don’t suspect that John the Baptist spent much time worrying about how successful he was on worldly standards. He had his mission and he did it. May God bless all the modern day prophets who this week pray and march for life. Safe travels, and may more and more of the baptized find the the courage to be prophets of God, prophets for life.

Homily 267 – Epiphany

Posted: January 5th, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Pax of the Magi

As we contemplate the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem today it’s important that become more to us than just some additional figures in our Christmas nativity scenes. They give us an example to follow. Today’s homily reflects on three important things that the Magi did that we should also do if we want peace (Latin: Pax) in this New Year:

P- Pay Attention
A – Act
X- Exchange Your Path for God’s (sorry English teachers)

Homily 266 – Solemnity of Mary

Posted: January 1st, 2014, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Peace for the New Year

Today is not only the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, but also the World Day of Prayer for Peace. In today’s homily, I consider Mary’s example as a way for all of us to have peace in the New Year. If you want peace in your hearts this new year, here are five practical tips based on the word peace.

P- pondering
E – expectations
A – activities
C – completely trust
E – eternity

Homily 265 – Holy Family

Posted: December 29th, 2013, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Save the Family, Save the World

As we look today at the holy family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, it wold be easy to dwell on just how much our actual families don’t measure up to this standard. Our families aren’t perfect. There are all kinds of struggles and difficulties. Often our families seem to be a bit of a mess. While this may be true, it’s not really unusual. Being part of a family has always had its joys and struggles. What seems to be different about our day is that people are believing that there really can be “perfect” marriages or families, or at least better ones than what they’ve got. Sadly, people abandon their spouses and children in an impossible quest for the “perfect” family.

The holy family gives us the perfect answer today. Their situation was far from ideal, but they continued to say yes to God, even when His plan didn’t match their plans. We’ve got to be willing to do the same. We’ve got to fight for our families. If our culture is sick it is because our families are sick. A lot is riding on remaining faithful in the school of holiness we call family. Save the family, save the world.

Homily 264 – Christmas

Posted: December 25th, 2013, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

The Quest for the Perfect Christmas

Each year I set out on a secret quest to try to celebrate the “perfect” Christmas. I begin with careful mixes of Christmas music, Christmas cookies, and the right proportion of present buying and present receiving. Try as I might, I don’t think I’ve ever had the “perfect” Christmas. Real life always seems to get in the way. The good news is that the first Christmas wasn’t so perfect in the normal way either. There were a lot of problems with that first Christmas. So, if your Christmas doesn’t seem all that perfect, or if life seems far from perfect right now…don’t worry. Jesus came precisely because things were not perfect; things were a mess really, and in many ways still are. The good news of Christmas is that “A Savior has been born” for us as the shepherds were told. If you feel like your Christmas needs a little saving then the words of the angel are indeed “Good news and great joy.”

Homily 263 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted: November 10th, 2013, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Courage to Fight

Today’s is the 238th anniversary of the birth of the United States Marine Corps. Tomorrow is also Veterans’ Day. While neither those who serve in uniform nor the Church glorify war, we are rightly inspired by the selfless sacrifice of those who serve in our country’s armed forces. Today’s homily explores some of the important lessons we can learn from our men and women in uniform and how we can better fight so as win the many spiritual battles we face each day as the Church Militant.

A Geek’s Point of View

Posted: October 22nd, 2013, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Obamacare ExplanationAn article headline caught my attention this morning:

Can the geeks fix Obama’s flawed cure-all?

I’m not an expert in economics or healthcare, so I tend not to comment on those things as if I were. However, as a former professional “geek” (i.e. Software Engineer) I might have something constructive to add to the ongoing embarrassment of the Obmacare website.

From my own observations and from what I’ve taken from other software engineering professionals, the Obamacare website failures have nothing to do with volume. It’s not a matter of just “too many people.” Online sites deal with this all the time. There are standard industry practices that learned how to deal with this long ago. This means one of two things:

1) The site is basically fine and the the whole “high traffic” issue is easily isolated to a nicely coded and encapsulated module that just needs to get a little more processing power or be slightly tweaked for efficiency. Maybe the software is fine and it’s all a hardware issue. Get some new servers and all will be well.

2) The lack of ability to follow standard practices with regard to a web site designed for high traffic could point to the overall design and architecture being deficient. It’s not just a volume problem. The whole thing was done too quickly by people who didn’t know what they were doing and the lack of skill is showing up all over, the front end being just the most obvious touch point.

Unfortunately, I think we’re most likely dealing with #2. This was made especially obvious to me the other day when I saw that qualified software engineers were analyzing the code for the site and found that it had been pieced together with little chunks of open source programs the so-called programmers found for free surfing the web. To make matters worse, they were so embarrassed by this fact that they removed even the minimal open source copyright information and illegally stole the code.

It didn’t have to be this way. Online commerce and transaction processing has grown immensely since I left the industry for seminary. People feel safe and secure conducting business via the internet. However, when you look at the Obamacare website, you would think that the last fifteen years never happened. It makes mistakes that were overcome long ago. I fear this does not bode well for what could have been the most important website ever created.

If I had to guess, I would not look for any quick fix for this. It looks like a major architecture problem and a management crisis. Although the President is fond of making problems go away by exerting his power, computers don’t respond to pressure that way. Adding more power to this problem probably won’t fix it.

Maybe I could get a part time job writing code for Obama. I might even write a nice little backdoor function to get me some sweet access. I think I’ll pass. Oh, and don’t worry about all that code they stole from cool websites they found with Google… I’m sure it’s clean and perfectly secure for handling the private medical and financial data of the entire country.

Don’t Put it Off

Posted: October 17th, 2013, by Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

Brother CallistusI admit that I tend to be a procrastinator. It seems so hard to get started some times. These days it tends to be an assignment for Canon Law that slips down the priority list. I suppose it’s one thing to put off doing “stuff,” but sometimes I know that I can be guilty of putting off people as well. That’s not so good.

My new home here in Washington, DC is at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land. Although I haven’t been here that long I have really worked hard to try to get to know the friars of the community. I’m a natural introvert, so going out of my way to strike up conversations with strangers can be hard for me to get started. However, I had the opportunity recently to strike up a conversation with one of the more “experienced” friars here.

Each night before bed I normally head down to the kitchen for a glass of milk. It didn’t take long being here to notice that every night one of the friars was also down in the kitchen washing the little tray of dishes that had piled up after dinner. There he was each night, but I never really talked to him. I kind of felt guilty adding one more glass to his effort. You know it was kind of neat though. This was his niche. His way of contributing each day to the monastery even if his noticeable feeble condition kept him from most other tasks.

One night last week I was down having my milk as normal and it kind of hit me; I see this friar every night and basically just ignore him. I don’t know why I was putting off talking to him. Maybe I was worried that his hearing wasn’t so good and a conversation would be difficult. Whatever it was, I remember telling myself that this was dumb and that I really ought to go at least try to have a conversation. The thought even came to my mind about how I would feel if I passed up talking to him one more time and then found out he died or something. I know…that’s weird…but sometimes thinking about what I would do differently if I knew the world was ending helps me break out of my procrastination.

I finally decided to go talk to him. I introduced myself. He told me his name was Brother Callistus. I thought that was a wonderful name as I admire the martyr Callistus very much. We had a great conversation. We didn’t talk long, but I remember feeling very glad that I had gotten over that ridiculous hurdle. Here was a man with a beautiful history of religious life that I put off talking to for too long.

In the last few days I have become even more appreciative of my brief conversation with Br. Callistus. You see, the next day there was a sign up at the monastery that Br. Callistus had been taken to the hospital. He died earlier this week…on his feast day…the memorial of St. Callistus. We celebrated his funeral today and his body now rests in the cemetery here just a few yards away from where we had our little talk.

Now each night as I head down to the kitchen for a glass of milk before bed, I can’t help but notice the pile of unwashed dishes sitting by a quiet sink and I remember Br. Callistus. I’m glad I didn’t wait one more day. How important it is that we take advantage of the time God gives us and not put off following the little inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve got a big paper due tomorrow that I’ve been putting off…but it’s almost my bedtime. It’s time to head down for some milk. You know though, I think I might just have enough time tonight to do some dishes in honor of a friar of happy memory. Rest in peace, Br. Callistus. I’m glad we got to talk.