A California priest blogs

The following were posted on the blog of Father Joseph Illo, pastor of St. Joseph church in Modesto.

“I told her not to ‘settle’,” a friend told me thirty years ago. “What does ‘settle’ mean?” I asked her. “It means settling for a man who does not meet her standards.”

A priest, it is said, marries the Church. Does the Church “settle” for priests that don’t meet her standards? Do you settle for a merely good man, or will you accept nothing less than a good priest? “A good priest is a very good thing,” wrote Victor Hugo in Les Miserables. How is a good priest more than just a good man?

A good man puts you at ease; a good priest puts you at ease, but often challenges you as well. A good man makes you laugh; a good priest makes you laugh, but sometimes makes you cry. A good man helps you reach success in life; a good priest helps you reach success, but he also prepares you for heaven. A Catholic priest must be a good man, certainly, but God calls His priests to a greater personal sanctity. A really good priest never ceases to call others, as well, to sanctity.

How much do we, the Church, settle for good men when we could expect of our priests that they be other Christs: men of prayer, of purity, of sacrifice, of obedience? Christ was “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). Is your priest striving for this kind of obedience?

Do not be satisfied with your priest if he preaches dynamic, engaging homilies but does not preach difficult truths. Do not be satisfied if he shows you the world but does not show you Christ. Do not be satisfied if he teaches your children soccer but does not teach them the Gospel….

Food is sacred
“Supersize it.” If one, six-dollar burger is good, two is better, and best of all when they are on sale, two for ten dollars! We love to eat. Can you imagine a Sunday morning at St. Joseph’s without donuts? Impossible. I’m glad Myrna takes care of the donuts every Sunday morning around here! Food is essential for human life. But why, then, is food the number one killer in America? Heart disease, due almost entirely to overeating or eating the wrong kinds of foods, is our number one cause of death in America. Actually, food is a sacred gift, and so the abuse of this sacred gift is seriously harmful.

Jesus shows us how to eat
Jesus shows us how to properly order our appetite for food. Consider the Last Supper: Jesus took a little bread, and a little wine. Both are natural, wholesome foods. And this is what we do at Mass: a little bread, a little wine, which is really the very body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus.

How we worship is how we should eat, because food is sacred.

Our market-driven culture teaches us to consume. We are told that food, as much and as often as we can get it, makes us happy. As with all lies, there is a kernel of truth in this: food does make us happy, but in right proportion. Too much food, or the wrong kind of food, makes us bloated, heavy, depressed, and ultimately kills us with every disease from diabetes to cardiac failure.

To be genuinely happy, we must discipline ourselves, as Jesus did. He took only a little baked fish (not fried fish!). He chastised his body; he restrained his appetites. He told his clueless disciples that the Christ had to suffer, and then rise from the dead on the third day.” First, self-denial, then, resurrection. There is no love without discipline, without sacrifice. Our Mass, the central act of worship, is a sacrificial meal, a restrained meal. If you want to be happy, always leave the table a little hungry.

Sex is sacred
Food is one of two human appetites which we must discipline. The other is … I will use a discretionary word … the other is “relations.” Human beings eat to sustain the body, and human beings have relations to sustain the race. We have been taught in our post-Christian society that, just as we need to eat early and often to be happy, so we need to have sexual relations whenever and however we get that “feeling….”

Jesus shows us how to love 
Jesus and His Church show us how to order our sexual appetites for true and lasting happiness. First, we should not engage in anything even leading to the marital act before we are married. Sex outside of the covenant is just junk food. It only briefly satisfies and eventually makes us sick. Second, we should not make love to our spouses that is not open to the transmission of human life. In other words, the Church has always and everywhere, from the first century, condemned artificial contraception. You may not believe me now, but it is becoming more obvious to everyone, that the social problems of our time began with the pill in the 1950s. At this point, in 2012, we are utterly confused about sexual identity and purpose, but how did we get to this point? By ignoring the Church’s constant teaching that marital relations must be natural and open to life every time.

Natural Family Planning
There is a small but growing group of people who teach this truth, not only in classrooms but in their marriages, in their flesh. Those who teach natural family planning—a natural, “green,” sustainable and healthy means of planning children. The contraceptive industry mocks natural family planning, because they can’t make any money on it. The sexual revolution gurus mock NFP because it requires discipline. But NFP restores sacredness and depth to lovemaking. Those who practice NFP have a virtually zero divorce rate. They are happier, healthier, and more fulfilled in their relational lives. They don’t inject artificial drugs into their bodies, or frustrate natural human acts of love….



Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 5:04 AM By Juergensen
“Do not be satisfied if he teaches your children soccer but does not teach them the Gospel” – That pretty much sums up the past 40 years of catechesis.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 6:28 AM By Martha Beasley
Thank you Father for this timeless and timely message. I am certain that the Lord will use the challenges our Church is facing with our current administration’s obsession with contraception and deviant sexual practices to open the eyes of the Catholic faithful to the beautiful truths of our human sexuality, fertility and chastity, especially within the covenant of marriage.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 6:30 AM By Padre Norberto
This preaching truly is instructive and in accord with the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church and the saving Gospel proclaimed by Jesus the Christ. Food is good & necessary, but too much food is neither good nor necessary. The ONE who is Bread from heaven nourishes our lives for the life that has no ending. We need to be fed by Him frequently by prayer and His eucharistic gift.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 6:50 AM By Laurie
I totally get you on this post Father. You are so right on. I hope people hear. Self-mastery in every appetitive area is key. Self-mastery, however, cannot be obtained by mere human effort, it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. “If by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.”(Rom 8:13) Much prayer is necessary for that.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 7:08 AM By Bob Allard
The number one cause of death in America is not heart disease. The number one cause of death is abortion. What are you doing to stop this genocide?

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 7:16 AM By Eileen 
thank you for this description – “A good man may help you reach success in life … a good priest … pepares you for heaven.” Pray for our priests everyday

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 7:25 AM By Rose
Preach it, Father! And thank you for trying to live it as well.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 7:39 AM By JMJ
I just had to recheck that this was by a Catholic Priest as it was to wonderful to believe. Praise God, now, if he could only teach the Bishops and the USCCB and get them to understand just what it is that Jesus wants from us. Thank you for something nice. +JMJ+

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 7:48 AM By EnTeaJay
Hurray! A priest who is not afraid to teach and to lead his flock! How I wish there were many more like you. I could count on one hand – with fingers left over – the times I’ve heard a homily on these topics from the pulpit, and I’m 61.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 8:47 AM By Anne T.
What an absolutely excellent article Fr. Illo has written. I have heard so many politicians preach buy, buy, buy, and it only produces greed, greed, greed. So many restarurants will not even serve small portions to adults and pile on the potatoes or rice, and it only produces weight, weight., weight. And some of us already know what the birthcontrol pill produces — breast cancers, disease, divorces and the pollution of our water ways. Keep up the excellent sermons and articles, Fr. Illo. We need them.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 8:53 AM By JFK
Those who are teaching NFP are still teaching birth control at a level comparable to that of artificial birth control. They are telling people to practice it instead of artificle methods but to still have control to limit the amount of children one brings into the world. Not, for the health of the mother or serious financial reasons, which is why they church made an exception for it in the first place, but for ones own selfish reasons. People used to go to their parish priest to get permission for this method after some assessment by the priest who would have know the family and there situation and could come to some informed decision. But now it’s a class taken before marriage like it’s some sort of right and no priest needs to be consulted. Also I wish Fr. lllo did not throw that “green” BS! into this story. THAT has nothing to do with faith and morals and no place in the Catholic church. It is a false religion made up by those who worship the earth and is based on lies!

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 9:07 AM By Anne T.
En Tea Jay, and he has done it in such a loving way, not preachy at all.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 9:29 AM By rosaryfixer
Thank you, Father, for your insights and inspiration. I would like to see the term “marital relations” come back into use. The culture uses the word, “sex,” but in reality the only moral use of our gift of cooperation in the creation of new life, and the mutual love of a man and a woman, is in “marital relations.” Just as “pro-choice” has replaced “abortion” in speech and writing, to muddy the truth. Time to speak the truth again.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 9:47 AM By David
What constitutes a serious reason for using NFP? That depends on a variety of complex conditions and alot of conversation with God (prayer). Great article Father. God only wants what’s best for us. Go Green!

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 9:50 AM By MA EIler
All true, but blah! blah! blah! Not every overweight person consumes gluttonously. There is massive metabolic disorder in this country–why? Not from over=eating because there are other things that interfere. Stress is probably No. 1–and slows down the metabolism of most. The ideal of slenderness we push on our youth propels them into a yoyo style of dieting; and each dieting threatens the body as if it were a new bout of famine; result: slowed metabolism. Continence with respect to food, sex, and just acquiring things all need to be practiced; but this article, from a man who obviously has controlled his weight (or taken control) makes overweight and weight loss sound like s simple thing–and shames those who are. Shaming is not Christian. And losing weight, being slim is not proof that one is living a Christian life..

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 9:56 AM By Tracy
I just added Fr. Illo’s blog to my list of favorites. I will print out this CCD article and give it to some priest I know for encouragement.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 10:02 AM By elsie
It is so refreshing to hear a modern Priest speak in this fashion. There is hope for our Church! Thank you for the wisdom of your words. Discipline in all areas of our lives, guided by the holy Spirit, is the secret to happiness. God is not a God of chaos but of peace & order. If we can address life & his creation as He did, we will acquire a new found respect for all we have been given. May God continue to bless you!

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 10:04 AM By Tracy
Bob Allard, thank you for pointing out this truth. (May 8th, 7:08 AM). This needs to be repeated often. That being said. I have seen the statistics where abortion is the number one killer of African-Americans. I am not aware of were to find the statistic in which abortion is the number one killer of all Americans inclusive. While I suspect you are right about this, it would help all of us if you could point to where we can find this information. That being said, it is my understanding that currently only surgical abortions are documented but not all the chemical abortions which probably amount for the largest amount of abortions occurring in the USA.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 10:12 AM By Maryanne Leonard
So now I’m nervous. Does this mean the cathedral doors will soon be closed to those of us who make those chubby little cherubs look slim and fit? I am reminded of discriminating young surfer dudes with sunbleached bumper stickers demanding: “No Fat Chicks!” (Anywhere?) Now do you see why the Church is committed to ministering to homosexuals and all the rest of us sinners? If they locked out those of us who, having sinned too many times at the dessert table, the Church would indeed be smaller and holier, but the pews and collection baskets would be lots lighter too. I’ve long wondered why we don’t see the use and/or abuse of drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, and other addictions called out more clearly as sins against our bodies, other people or the environment. It seems to me all these things should be avoided . . . religiously.

Posted Tuesday, May 08, 2012 10:41 AM By goodcause
Part of the problem is the catechtices, like birth control, is completely ignored so the laity is turned off. Not a good segue to strict adherence to the rest of the teachings. Add to that the sex abuse crisiss and cover up, and you can see why the laity looks at the priesthood so differenntly now than 40 years ago. Even a good priest will tell you he occasonally offends people, and sometimes the lay person leaves the church based on that interaction. So if a priest tries to win an philosophy argument and lose the war, what is gained? Empty churches.