Thursday, March 23, 2006

"I am the Light of the World." (Jesus in John, Chapter 9)

Note to all who come to "Parish World" every week to find out why there is "No Crying at My Funeral": The Gospel stories from St. John that are told every year in church are my favorites.

They are there purposely to remind us what it means to SEE God. The Samaritan Woman, SEES God, and spreads the WORD; the Man Born Blind, SEES God and the Temple Executives remain blind; Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus, SEE God while the some of the Jews stand around and ridicule God and then hold a meeting to decide how to get rid of Him. The Church presents these stories to us every year to remind us that God shows Himself to us in a lot of ways. " is so that the works of God may be made visible through them" (Jn. 9: 3)

Jesus opens up the Samaritan Woman's eyes by telling her "...everything I have ever done." When she communicates this to her townmates, they follow her to see this phenomenon. They finish by SEEING and Jesus stays in their village for two more days. The miracle of this is that these people weren't orthodox Jews. In fact the Woman herself disparages Jesus when she says, "our ancestors worshipped on the mountain, but you people say that the place to worship is Jerusalem." Before the day was out, not only she but all her townmates had been converted.
The work of God was bearing fruit through her.

Jesus opens up the eyes of the Man Born Blind through the sacramental act of making mud with his spit and rubbing it on the Man's eyes then sending him to wash it off in the Siloam Pool. Here again Jesus religious practices are attacked, not by the simple people, but by those in charge of the Temple. He broke the law by working on the Sabbath. The behavior of the leaders does nothing to open the eyes of the members of the Temple to the works of God, but the Man Born Blind and the Witnesses of the event are beginning to SEE. They are the work of God. Finally, Jesus slams the leaders of the Temple by telling them, "...if you were blind, you would have no sin, but now you are saying 'We see', so your sin remains."

Jesus opens up the eyes of his disciples and of the sisters of his friend Lazarus as well as some of the witnesses. In this story Jesus graphically predicts His own resurrection, and ours, by raising his friend from the dead. Those who witness the are divided into those who SEE and those who think they see, but are blind to God. These last are driven to plotting His death. Those who SEE praise Him and continue to be instruments of His spiritual works.

The miracles of Jesus are performed in the light of day. The miracles of Jesus are meant to turn on the lights in our hearts and minds. The miracles of Jesus are missionary acts that point the way to God. The miracles of Jesus are meant to awaken missionary zeal in those who SEE. The miracles of Jesus always polarize the witnesses. One element of the glory of the works of God is that through the polarization of His people, He is always glorified. Only God can do this. God does not fear polarization, He makes it a weapon in His Divine arsenal. Jesus Himself said, "I did not come to bring peace, I came to bring the sword." and also, "Because of me father will be set against son and mother against daughter..." Yet, God's glory shines.

Finally, the Church tells us these three stories every year because they illustrate the power of the miracle to recruit disciples. The Church wants us to know that the miracle of conversion is a call to discipleship. To be Catholic is to SEE. To SEE is to be a messenger of God. To SEE is to be living in the Kingdom of God and to be ready to invite everyone else to the party. To SEE is to be living in the light of God's day and not stumbling around in the dark of Satan's night.

I invite you all to make these stories the core of your lives. If you do, you'll know that there is no need to cry at my funeral.

Friday, March 17, 2006


Holy Water
White Dresses
Ready-made, Formal Prayers Committed to Memory
Kneeling to Pray
Church-yard Sunday
St. Patrick’s Day
Ash Wednesday
Good Friday
First Communion
15 Year Old Girls coming of age (Qinceañera)
Picture Blessings
Animal Blessings
Medal Blessings
Automobile Blessings
“Last Rites”
Sacred Heart
Immaculate Conception
Jesus of Prague
Church Wedding
Ten Commandments
Bible Stories
Catholic Schools, Colleges and Universities
Catholic Hospitals

Now isn’t that a rather impressive list of Catholic THINGS? I am sure that I have missed several.

There aren’t too many other religions that can make a list that heavy with religious stuff of their own. Not only do Catholics have all of these things, we even have our own Independent Country! So there! We are Catholics and we’re proud of it.

We’re so proud of it that even when we haven’t the slightest idea of what it means to be a disciple of Christ, we still brag, “Yeah, I was Baptized Catholic.”

It’s hard to let go of all that stuff. Even when Faith isn’t there to sustain it and make it mean anything. There are many of you reading this right now who know what I mean. You know who you are.

Lent is drawing to a close. Easter is coming. New Catholics are going to be baptized and will be joining our community of faith.

Are we ready to be with them? Are we ready to share true discipleship with them? Or are we sitting here wondering if they “believe” in everything that is on that long list above?

I know that some of us are wondering if they have been taught the ten commandments, the commandments of the church, the mysteries of the rosary, the act of contrition, the apostles creed, the eight holy days of obligation, the rules of fasting, both large and small, the rules for abstinence, the names of the 14 (do you believe in 15?) stations of the cross, the three temptations of Jesus in the desert, the names of the 12 tribes of Israel, the name of the Pharaoh’s daughter who rescued Moses from the rushes in the Nile, etc…

I’m here to tell you, NO. They will learn that from us as part of the Catholic Tradition of Religious Practices. Do you know why?

It’s because right now they have more Faith than they have Religion.

Notice I haven’t capitalized any of the names of these things? That’s because they are Intellectual Religion Objects, parts of the list above.

Here is a challenge to us all to prepare ourselves for the renewal of our baptismal vows at Easter:

Use the Gospels (all four of them) to find at least five “commandments” (Commissions) (Directives) that Jesus directs to us as the means of our being accepted into His Kingdom. Once we have found five that we can live and die by, in and with the Church as His Dedicated and Avowed Disciple, engrave them in our heart and soul and never let go. That is Faith. That brings Hope. That creates Love.

From there we will find Grace and Strength in our life every day. From there we will discover Saints and Heroes who will inspire us to reach ever higher levels of Friendship and Discipleship with Our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. From there we will reach out to the world and be a true sacrament of God’s presence to His people (John, Chapter 4)[1]. From there we will live the baptismal gifts of Prophecy, Kingship and Priesthood to their fullest. THERE, with eyes wide open (John, chapter 9)[2] we will find ourselves already in the Kingdom of God.

THERE we will be true Catholic Disciples of Christ, and THEREfore only one thing really matters, the relationship in faith between us and God. All the rest will fall into place and we won’t have to memorize it, it will be given to us.

I guarantee that if we are all successful at finding true discipleship through faith, no one will have the slightest temptation to cry at my funeral.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cry, Cry, Cry and Be Happy

The other day I received an e-mail from a very special person in my life.

Now, you have to know that I get a lot of E-mail that does not survive the “delete” button bomb. This one survived because it did not have a special format. It also has traces of having been written by an English-as-a-second–language person. I was now sure that it was original.

So I kept on reading even though I found myself in slight disagreement with the overall message. By the time I got to the end, I decided to respond with my own convictions about human relationships.

When you read my response you’ll notice that crying is OK. In fact, it is easier to cry than to laugh. Everybody knows that.

Crying is so basic that it is hard to fake it. Fake a laugh and everyone knows it.

So, go ahead and cry all you want, just cry yourselves out before I die so that you won’t have to fake a smile and a happy heart at my funeral.

Here is the E-mail:

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be.

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or theirs, the relationship comes to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.

What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.

Believe it, it is real, but only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

Thank you for being a part of my life, whether you were a reason, a season or a lifetime.

My response:

Thank you. My personal faith about the congruity of lives is that once it begins, it is there for eternity, no matter how long it lasts or how intense it is. We never lose the congruity that God allows us to have with one another.

Every point of human contact has a spiritual element of eternity, whether it is comfortable for us or not it is a part of God's plan for our eternal salvation.

Every human contact is a blessing from above. Some makes us cry out of love; some makes us cry out of frustration; some makes us cry out of satisfaction; some makes us cry out of sadness; some makes us cry out of passion; some makes us cry out of compassion; some makes us cry out of hatred; some makes us cry out of joy; some makes us cry out of violence; some makes us cry out of fondling gentleness.

We never cry out of indifference.

Thank you and yours for your spiritual presence to me; thank you for bringing the presence of God to me; thank you for being one of the sweet reasons why I cry.

I won’t cry at your funeral if you promise not to cry at mine.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)

Friday, March 3, 2006

New Face of the Catholic church

March 4, 2006

This week's Parish World has an article in it taken from "The Enterprise", a local newspaper from South Boston, Massachusetts. The featured individual is a man who has, at the age of 27, decided to become a priest. He will live and work at a local parish before going back to the seminary to finish his last four years of study. The article states that he "is convinced that the priesthood is attracting higher quality candidates in the aftermath of the abuse crisis."

I smile when I read assertions like this. I wonder what baseline people use when they make claims of this nature. I ask myself, "higher quality than whom? Than when? Better than John Bosco? Better than Jean Marie Vianney? Better than John Carroll? Better than Maximilian Kolbe? Better than Isaac Jogues? Better than Vincent de Paul? I could go on and on, but you get the point.

Better quality of what? All the individuals above are saints. That must mean that they had a very solid spiritual life. That was a must. Their education was focused on becoming apostles, fearless disciples of Jesus Christ, true zealous sons of the Church. Their spirituality was wrought in the crucible of traditional monasticism topped off by hard driving missionary ferocity in obedience to Jesus' commissioning in Matthew 28. The success of their lives was measured by the final judgement described in Matthew 25.

It is impossible to judge the quality of the priest until he dies. The priests of today, while alive and working, have to be brave souls indeed. They are sent to minister to communities of people who outrank them in life-style comforts; who outrank them in large part by the quality of their educational credentials; who outrank them by their knowledge of people management; who are far better than the priests are in the management of business operations; who have a world view that encompasses a broader exposure to the various cultures found in the world. Are the candidates who are preparing for the priesthood going to be better priests than what we already have? Why?

Will it be because they have better educational credentials? Will it be because they have gone through co-ed colleges and universities? Will it be because they will have law degrees? Business degrees? Accounting degrees? Psychology degrees? or will it be because they will be better taught in Theology? Philosophy? Will they understand ancient Greek better? Will their ancient Hebrew be stronger? Will they be fluent in Latin? Will they be better prepared to face the onslaught of the Chinese economic machine? Will they be better Church Pharisees, keepers and purveyors of the Law? Or finally, and, I might add, most importantly, will they be able to be better disciples? Better Fishers of People? Will they love Jesus more? Will they pray better?

This article doesn't address any of these questions. It makes a gratuitous statement that it doesn't back up. My opinion is that the candidates for the priesthood are today of the same quality as seminarians have always been. They may be better educated and they may have more "real life" experience, but they are no better than the spiritual life of the disciple that they will lead. To be a true disciple, means that the follower has no baggage and no desire to acquire any. When today's seminarians prove tomorrow that the priesthood that they have lived was the life of a true disciple of the light, then we will rejoice at their funeral and there will be cause for celebrating, not for crying.

But for now they should focus on their rebirth in the Spirit and the constant conversion and reconversion that true discipleship requires. We call it, the search for perfection. Go for it, guys.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)

The New Kid on the Block

Friday, March 3, 2006
All my life I have wondered why people cry at funerals. Especially Catholics. We are the ones who live our entire lives as disciples of Christ in the hope of spending the rest of eternity with Him and His Father. Yet, we spend so much of our lives praying for more time, explaining to God that we still have too much to do. Like, He needs to hear that, right?

I am talking about this in my introduction to the blogosphere of "Parish World" because it is the title of my autobiography. It has been the cornerstone of my relationship to God and to the world for many years now.

God started to teach me this lesson when I was about seven years old. That's when my Aunt Cécile died at the ripe old age of twenty-five leaving behind a husband and a one year old daughter. She was but the first in a long line of my dear relatives who didn't get much time to finish what they had started. From 1944 through 1985 eleven first degree relatives of mine were taken up into the bosom of God.

As I went through this experience, and as I lost friends with whom I had attended grammar school, I always had a hard time figuring out why people were crying at all these funerals. After all, they were all Catholic. I can't believe that Catholics can't bring themselves to celebrate death rather than grieve about it. So, here are some of my reasons why you should not cry at my funeral.
I will be in the bosom of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Don't cry over that. I will be friends with Michael the Archangel; I will be swapping stories with Noah and the gang; I will be getting information about the Egyptian pharaohs from Joseph; I will be checking out my heroine, Judith and I won't forget to see if Jonah was really, real.
I will not have to get up to go to work any more; my wife won't have to worry about my shutting off the coffee pot, watering the orchids, calling the children, paying the bills, making the bed get the idea.
You will not have to put up with the physical me any more. You will be able to pray for me to try to convince God to shorten my purgatory, or pray to me to try to convince God for you to get what would make you a better person.  There's no reason to cry over that.

If you never liked me anyway, why cry?
If I go to hell, I will be so mean that it won't matter to me if you cry or not.
One way or the other, I'll still be a part of your life. Oops, that's probably why people do cry at some people's funeral, maybe even mine.
One way or the other, come back and read some more.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)