An invitation to rest: Personally delivered
Rest. After the weeks of anxiety in anticipation of and then observing from afar the war in Iraq, with seemingly every detail broadcast and critiqued, we could use a little rest from it all.
With the heavy schedules of work, school, vacations, family celebrations, and spring-cleaning and chores, we could use a little rest from it all.
After the exhilarating liturgies of Holy Week, involving so many hours of volunteer time as readers, servers, ushers, choir members, Eucharistic ministers, environment decorators, we could use a little rest from those meaningful yet demanding tasks. Thank you to all who so generously and often sacrificially offer the gift of yourself to your parish. We priests, too, feel the need for a little down time, a time of rest.
Certainly physical rest is needed and worthwhile for us all. However, what we may need most is spiritual rest.
There have been so many words spoken and images conveyed this past week. The Passion was proclaimed twice. We heard countless Scripture readings, sang lots of beautiful psalms, preached (or absorbed) many homilies. We experienced washing of feet, veneration of the cross, lighting candles in darkness, and bells ringing joyously.
We may need time to take it all in, to rest in what we have received. The Church offers an abundance of spiritual nourishment in her Holy Week liturgies which we should take time to reflect upon. This requires restful moments.
Antidote to worry and war
We need to rest in the love of our God who sent his Son that we might have life and have it abundantly. We need to rest in the gift of the forgiveness of sin he won for us on the cross. We need to rest in the victory over death His resurrection assures.
Many lives are filled with stress, illness, and uncertainty. While reveling in the celebrations of Easter Sunday on Easter Monday and each day that follows, there is the inevitable return to work, war, worry, and perhaps wonderment about what it all means. Our souls are restless until they rest in thee, the familiar words of St. Augustine remind us. Easter offers us the opportunity to quench that restlessness by resting in the Risen Christ.
In one of the readings from Easter Sunday, St. Paul encourages us to think about what is above, not what is on earth. That means to raise our sights. He calls us to look up from ourselves to the Risen One in whom all things are new, with whom all things are possible, and in whom the promise of eternal life is assured.
When we raise our vision from the aches of the world to the hope the empty tomb offers, our burdens are more easily worn. When we lift our vision from ourselves to our Savior, we can believe that every Good Friday can become an Easter Sunday. Because he is risen, we can sing alleluias through our pain, our sorrow, our sadness, and our challenges.
St. Clement of Alexandria wrote: Christ has turned all sunsets into dawns. How restful and encouraging is a beautiful sunrise at dawn. The day ahead is filled with hope.
After the beautiful and moving Holy Week liturgies, may we take the time to better understand, appreciate, and appropriate into our lives the comforting words of our risen Lord. Come to me all who find life burdensome, and I will give you rest.
The Risen Christ, who turns all sunsets into dawns, invites us to rest in him. He extended his invitation personally, and awaits our response.
Joint Finance: Has bigger role
As it does every two years, the legislature devotes the first months of its session to deliberating on the budget recommendations of the governor.
The vagaries of politics, personalities, and events means that no two budget stories are alike. One change in "State Budget 2003" is the enhanced role of the 16-member Joint Committee on Finance in the process.
"Joint Finance," as it is popularly known, is the most sought after committee assignment in the legislature. Any bill that spends money must pass through this committee.
Joint Finance is for workhorses, not show horses. Panel members must be prepared for long hours, tough choices, and the capacity to defend their party's budget priorities to the press and the public.
One way to identify legislators whom leaders may view as "rising stars" in their respective party caucuses is to watch which are appointed to Joint Finance.
Budget's first stop
The committee represents the budget's first stop on its way through the legislature. It begins with public briefings as to the content of the budget bill. Then it conducts a number of public hearings on the budget at which members of the public are urged to testify for and against budget provisions.
This is followed by weeks of "executive sessions" during which committee members debate and vote on changes to the budget. The late George Molinaro, who served on Joint Finance for over a decade, once said these executive sessions determine "who gets what, when, where, and how much."
In recent years, when Democrats controlled the Senate and Republicans the Assembly, the work of the Finance Committee was less important. The committee's work was largely undone as the two houses passed their own versions of the budget. Senate Democrats and Assembly Republicans negotiated their differences in the Conference Committee.
Moreover, because of the intensity of the partisan divide, most groups used the Senate and Assembly versions of the budget as places to insert policy matters that had been introduced as separate bills in other years. These non-budget policy items greatly increased the points of difference between the two houses.
Less divisive this year
This year, Republicans control both houses. Thus, the differences between the Senate and Assembly will be subtle and less philosophical and therefore less divisive than in recent budgets.
Both Assembly Speaker John Gard and Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer are also intent on limiting the number of policy issues inserted in the budget. If they are successful, the work of Joint Finance can be expected to stand as the "last word" in most areas.
This also bodes well for efforts to get the budget done before the end of the fiscal year on June 30. If the members of the Finance Committee do negotiate the major provisions in ways that retain the support of Senate and Assembly leadership, the two houses themselves will spend less time revisiting those decisions.
Getting the budget done on time is important to local governments whose own budgeting depends on knowing what the state does.
This is a year when funds are limited and lawmakers are struggling to improve the Legislature's image in the wake of indictments and investigations. To the extent that the resurgence of the Joint Committee on Finance helps produce a budget process that is more open, less cluttered with non-budget issues, and timely in its deliberations, all of Wisconsin will benefit.
John Huebscher is executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.
Novena for priests:
Catholics invited to join in prayer
Young priests are among the great signs of hope in the Catholic Church in the United States today.
Eleven months ago, when the long Lent of 2002 was taking a daily, bitter toll across the country, my family had the pleasure of hosting for dinner a dozen recently-ordained priests who were in Washington for the annual reunion of North American College alumni.
Full of determination
These men had become my friends while I was working in Rome on Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. I was concerned that their morale might have been dampened by the ugliness that had been unleashed after the Geoghan case broke in the press in January 2002.
Novena Prayer for Priests
Here is the Novena Prayer, approved by Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Ill.:
Jesus, Good Shepherd, You sent us the Holy Spirit to guide Your Church and lead her faithful to You through the ministry of Your priests.
Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, grant to Your priests wisdom in leading, faithfulness in teaching, and holiness in guarding Your sacred Mysteries.
As they cry out with all the faithful, "Abba, Father!" may Your priests be ever more closely identified with You, in Your divine Sonship, as they offer their own lives with You, the one saving Victim.
Make them helpful brothers of one another, and understanding fathers of all Your people.
On this Pentecost Sunday, renew in Your priests greater trust in You, childlike reliance on our Mother, Mary, and unwavering fidelity to the Holy Father and his bishops.
Holy Mary, intercede for your priests.
St. Joseph, protect them.
St. Michael, defend them.
St. John Vianney, pray for them.
To the contrary, I found these young priests full of determination to live the vows they had made to Christ and the Church and to get about the business of authentically Catholic reform. Their faith strengthened my hope.
Surge of prayer
My young priest-friends are now organizing a national "Novena for Priests," to be prayed during the nine days before Pentecost, which falls on June 8 this year.
They invite every Catholic in the United States to join them in a nationwide surge of prayer: to lift up our priests before the Throne of Grace; to beseech God's grace for a renewal of the priesthood, of priestly formation, and of authentic priestly fraternity; and to commit ourselves, one and all, to living radically Catholic lives through our own distinctive vocations, which their priestly vocations exist to support and ennoble.
Springtime of reform
All great periods of reform in Catholic history have included a reform of the priesthood. That was true in the High Middle Ages, when a period of clerical corruption was followed by a profound renewal of the priestly office in the Church.
That was true in the years after the Reformation, which was caused in part by another period of clerical malfeasance. That was true in the shattered French Church after the tidal wave of the French Revolution.
And that must be true, now, if the decades following the Second Vatican Council are to be remembered in the centuries to come as a new springtime of reform, in which the entire Church is empowered to be ever more what the Church always is: the spouse of Christ, incarnate in a great evangelical movement that offers the world the amazing truth about its origins and its glorious destiny.
Many priests, older and younger, will contribute to the reform of the priesthood. But perhaps it will be younger priests who are at the forefront of the reform - men who know themselves to be, not ecclesiastical functionaries licensed to do certain kinds of churchly business, but icons of the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ, called and sent into the world for the world's sanctification.
My friends who are organizing the "Novena for Priests" would welcome your participation. They are also eager to help meet your spiritual needs and concerns, and their Web site - www.novenaforpriests.com - includes an e-mail form on which you can list your prayer requests in complete privacy. The Web site contains the novena prayer, and it would be a kindness if you would pass that prayer along your list of e-mail correspondents and among your fellow-parishioners.
George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.