Thursday, August 30, 2007


"My prayers are always heard and answered. God either gives me what I want or He takes away the desire I have to make it mine." (Dennis Sheahan, Resident Sage and Keeper of the Aphorisms)
Strive for success and remember you won't get what you want unless you want what you get. (Yogi Berra, Native of St. Louis where English was rarely spoken)

The other night my wife and I were finishing our night prayers when a flash of my guardian angel's sword brought me to a cold sweat. I thought that he was trying to beat back the "devil who is prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking whom to devour." (1 Peter; 5, 9) But no, I was the one that the angel was looking for. I ducked, but his spiritual sword got me anyway, right in the heart. Before we could finish the doxology of Compline, I was chuckling heartily. Of course the Mother Abbess of the Saint Maximillian Kolbe Mobile Home Monastery was not
smiling. With pursed lips and flashing eyes glaring she demanded, "Why are you laughing?" I immediately snapped to attention and said, "My guardian angel just stabbed me in the heart." "Good," says she, "you deserve it, I know. What did you do now?"
"Well, I think that God must be just a little bit on edge with me for something that I did today. I mean, now that I think of it, it was really personal. All week long I knew that the California Lotto was going to have an $80 million jackpot. I prayed every single day, many times every day, that God would give me the winning ticket. So, of course, all week long I decided that I was going to buy my usual $20 dollar array. I mean, I was really into this. I was even kneeling on my arthritic knees during the Mass instead hooking my bum to the pew behind me. I was holding my hands piously, bowing profoundly before taking the host for communion, smiling and really being gentle when shaking a lady's hand during the exchange of peace. I mean, it got so bad that I was even listening to the short homily with my eyes open, for goodness sake. Now this was really a full court press."

Comes Friday afternoon and I am full of sass and I have a crunchy new Jackson in my pocket. I just know that God is going to do this for me. I get a moment of freedom from the Abbess and I run down to the liquor store that is owned and operated by the Chaldean Catholics. No messing around here. You gotta hit the halos. I get my twenty tickets and on the way home, in a moment of weakness, I figure, "What the heck, a little bribery can't hurt." So I say to the Man upstairs, "I'll give you back 10%, before taxes, every year." Now, I am sinning big time. Not
only do I bribe Heaven but I am feeling like I'm unbeatable. Hell, man, I just gave up 10% of the proceeds. I know that the Abbess is going to be livid. My sons, God bless 'em, are going to bathe me in acrimony for hours. Ten percent! When are you going to learn? But I decide that it's worth the money to get God on my side. I'll go through the human torture to get the money that the charity is bound to bring. Then a brilliant idea sneaks out of the cracks. "Not a word until after you know for sure that you've got the pot, you hear?" Oh, perfect. So that's what I do.

So the Abbess, AKA "The Voice from the Kitchen", says, "You are so rotten. You're lucky that your guardian angel just nicked you. I would have done away with you." I say, hurt to the core, "He couldn't put me away because I would have gone to hell."
"You're a crazy old coot. Why did you insult God that way? You kiss up to Him and then you insult Him by buying twenty tickets. Don't you think that if He wanted you to win, all He would have needed was ONE ticket?"
"All right already. I'll apologize to Him before I thank Him if I win. If I lose, I'll know why, and I'll apologize anyway. I'll tell him that I got the point."

Well, let me tell you. God is a humorous guy (ooppsss, person). He answered all my prayers, despite my insult. He made me win. I actually won. I checked the numbers and when I saw the results I was laughing so hard I nearly fell off my chair. I won...$1.00. One, big beautiful picture of George Washington. So God and I kissed and made up and we're friends again. I mean, I won. My prayers, bribery and all worked! But I have a sense of humour too. I'm still praying and everything, but Now I'm hooking the pew and I'm closing my eyes during the short morning homily.

Now that was Saturday, and none of the other people who were sacrificing, fasting and flogging themselves with whips to impress God and get Him to give them all that money walked away totally happy. So on Sunday morning I tell Him, "Look, I get the joke. That's neat. So I'll tell you what, I'll put the single back into Arnie's coffers and you are going to make it a winner on Wednesday, right? Forget all those other half-hearted praying and sacrificing christians and remember the sweet old man who writes for, the best evangelizing
magazine in all creation. Right?" Well, I've been praying now for four days. I did buy one ticket, because even God can't make you win if you don't buy a ticket.
If you'll give me a moment, I'll go check the results so that we can celebrate together. Hang on a bit.

Well, the buck that I gave back to Arnie because it came from God will make someone happy, I'm sure. The Abbess still loves me, and my children haven't started proceedings to put me in a home yet. I'll have to go on wondering if He does all this stuff to me to save me from a long stint in Purgatory. That's what I like about prayer. God always gives you something to be happy about. Mostly it's the ability to be happy knowing that He is there enjoying your life with you. It is filling you with the grace of being satisfied with what you have and not going crazy over the useless things that you don't have yet. Having Him is all we need, and He knows it. That's the best lesson that we can all learn a little bit better every day of our lives. Let's do it together. We'll get to be better people that way and you won't feel the slightest need to cry at my funeral because Old Peter, and Jesus Himself and I will be laughing at the day that I was stupid enough
to throw sand in the eyes of God with those extra nineteen tickets.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Archbishop Defends Celibacy (I do too)

ADELAIDE, Australia, AUG. 16, 2007 ( Allowing priests to marry is not the answer to the shortage of priestly vocations. Archbishop Wilson of Adelaide, who is also the president of the Australian bishops' conference, wrote a letter for the National Vocations Awareness Week that began in his archdiocese Tuesday.
"You often hear it said," the archbishop started, "that 'the Church should let priests get married and then we would solve the problem of the shortage.' However, he explained, "I think that it is important to reflect on the positive value of celibacy."

Community context

"We need to see a vocation as more than just an individual or personal life choice," Archbishop Wilson said. "Each vocation is a call from God in the context of the Christian community and for the service of the community.
"If we only see a vocation from the individual's point of view, we will find it hard to see beyond the thought that priests and religious are missing out on something if they are not married. John Paul II reminded us that 'No one is called to walk alone.'" The 56-year-old archbishop continued: "The context of a loving, supportive Christian community is important. At the heart of the ministry of Jesus was the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. In fact in his very person he made the Kingdom of God present in human time and history.
"The Kingdom of God is among us and includes our human endeavors, we know that its fulfillment lies beyond us and only in the mystery of God and in the next life."
"Celibate priests and religious are clear signs of this mystery. They continually challenge us to look beyond," the archbishop explained.

Human loss

Archbishop Wilson continued: "You hear it said 'how can priests be helpful to married people and for families if they haven't experienced it themselves?'
"However, there's a deeper way that priests and religious share in the human experiences of others and so can relate to them. It is in the experience of loss and letting go."
Archbishop Wilson underlined the "deep wisdom in the Church continuing to ask priests to be celibate and in upholding the enduring religious vow of chastity." "Of their very natures," he concluded, "these vows only exist and are possible because of God's grace. Let us not lose faith and confidence in the gift of this grace. Let us confidently pray for it."

My Comment

This is a short but very powerful letter. It proposes some thoughts that had not yet occurred to me. The intimate connection with the rest of the community that celibacy gives to priests through the "loss and the letting go." This brings us to the feet of Jesus who told the rich man: "There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Luke, 18; 22) This is the foundation of the Archbishop's teaching, "these vows only exist and are possible because of God's grace." This grace is given not only to the individual but to the whole community. It is in the community that the priest lives his vows. It is the spiritual priesthood of the community that provides the spiritual support to the priest so that the practice of his vows will have fruit. By the same token, the practice of celibacy is a lived martyrdom and a heaven-on-earth witness to the dynamic presence of God. Martyrdom does not always end in death. "Martyr" is an old Greek word which means "witness".
Witness is only given while we are alive. Sometimes it ends in death, but it is always public and it takes as much strength to live it out over time as it does to die for it. We all know that this kind of courage is required of a good priest, a strong missionary.
I will now say that I think that having married priests in the Latin Church is a good idea. I think that the Greek churches have a good method. I think that there is room in the Latin Church for the same system. But I do not, I repeat, I do not think that the Latin Church should, nor would, go the married priest system to solve the priest shortage reality. For those of you who do not know what I mean, a short and quick explanation.

In the Eastern churches, it is acceptable for a married man to be ordained to the priesthood. However, it is not possible for an ordained priest to get married.

This is a very important practice to be kept in mind.
Just because I think that there is room in the Latin Church for such a system, I am leaving it up to the Church to determine if and when this practice should be accepted and encouraged. I am with the Church and the Archbishop from Adelaide on this one. The Church needs signs. The Church needs holy and living martyrdom to place before the World. St. Paul himself shouted that out to his people. He wanted them to understand him, and by the same token he wanted them to understand how the grace of God works in us. The celibate person is a sign
from God to all of us.
Martyrs are not easy to find. But the efficatiousness of martyrdom doesn't depend on numbers. Just as Faith is not a numbers game just as it is not an intellectual exercise, so martyrdom is the same. It is an exercise of carrying the light of the Word through the highways and byways of the World. Martyrdom is a highly spiritual exercise of righteousness for the good of the community. The priesthood therefore is a calling to witness to the presence of God through the sacrifice of HiS Son, Jesus Christ, founder of the Church. This is not impossible
for a married man to accomplish but look around you. How many celibate priests are there who are living a true martyrdom? How many of them are more dedicated to the administrative tasks of the parish than they are to a life of witness? You're right. Too many. So the Church's position is that it is not a question of numbers, but a question of quality. It is the Church's opinion, and mine, that the solution to the mediocrity problem is not by taking away the challenge of celibacy, but by keeping it in front of everybody as God's challenge to both, priest
and faithful as human community's martyrdom for His sake.

That's my story and I am going to live and die with it. Love it or hate it, you won't have to cry at my funeral because of it.


I start the answer to this question by saying that I have never left the Catholic Church. All I can do is to recount what I observe, what I read and what I hear, especially from those who come back to the Catholic Church after having "strayed", their word. I also start this by saying that I am originally from New England where there was and still is a high percentage of Catholics despite the fact that the original colonies were very often theocracies founded by the Pilgrims. It happened just as often that over time the Pilgrims were outnumbered by the Italians, the Portuguese, the Polish and the French, Catholic populations all. The Irish came a little later, but they were mostly Catholic too. All of that just to say that I am not a child of a religious monologue, nor of a religious monoscape. To use a word that I have come to find distasteful, but it fits here, I come from diversity. No, I am not Anglo-Saxon. Yes, I am diverse.

Now a short parable.

I was in the Holy Land for four weeks some months ago. I spent a lot of time in Old Jerusalem as well as in Old Bethlehem. There is in the center of Old Jerusalem a majestic Lutheran church dedicated to the Holy Redeemer. This church is a few steps across the road from the church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is also the only Protestant church in the Old City. While we were there it was very often locked and inaccessible. This did not perturb us, of course, but our curiosity was certainly piqued because as time went by it was the only church in the Old City that we had yet to enter. Two days before our scheduled departure we decided to go to Jerusalem one last time. It so happened that during this last pilgrimage to the Sacred City, the church of the Holy Redeemer was open. We went in. The huge portal closed quietly behind us. In front of us and all around us there was nothing but space. Four grey walls. No pews. An altar and a pulpit. No odor. No noisy, jostling, international herd of tourist-pilgrims. No statues (of course). No pictures (heavens, no). Not even a cross on the front wall. Finally, what really surprised us was the fact that there was not even an open Bible anywhere. There were no people praying, just three or four more tourists such as we. We looked at one another, shrugged and left quietly.

Just as quickly as our Catholicism had been stripped from us as the door closed in on us, we were thrown back into the reality of Mix-Master, multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-colored, noisy, sweaty Jerusalem-style biblical religiosity. Mental pictures of people I know who had left the Catholic church for another religion flooded my imagination. Words of wonder coming from them filled my memory.
"There are no colors to set the environment."
"I missed Jesus on the cross, looking at me, keeping me honest."
"I missed taking Jesus in communion."
"I missed being reminded to beg for forgiveness for the sins I committed in the past week."
"I missed the interesting stories from the Old Testament."
"I missed the candles and the incense."
"I missed special feast days like Ash Wednesday, Pentecost and days like that."
"I missed the Blessed Virgin Mary."
"I missed the other saints too, like St. Rose, St. Therese and my patron saint, Felicity, the martyr."
"I missed the catechism. I never, ever thought I would say that, but I did miss it."
"I missed the Mass at weddings and I missed it especially at funerals."
"I missed the rosary at the viewings of the deceased."
"I missed the unity. Every church was different. There was no moral or doctrinal unity."
"I was surprised to hear so many bad things about Catholics said from the pulpit."
"I met so many disgruntled Catholics that it was hard to be happy."

I left because I was fed up with all the rules and regulations about so many things.
Everything was regulated from what to do to get your baby baptized, to who the godparents could or should be.
Marriage in the church was a nine months preparatory period.
It was just one thing after another.

Then I suddenly had two children and there was nothing for them to aspire to that I could relate to. True, we had our Bible and we did read it and study it, but I did not feel that I had what it takes to bring the fullness of its meaning home to my children. I found myself teaching them the Our Father and the Act of Contrition because I was afraid for them if they could not go to confession. I have to admit that I was disoriented because there was no unified, well focused teaching. Believe it or not, I found myself looking for a priest who would hear my confession. It was then that I brought the entire experience together in my conscience and realized that I had to rethink my situation.

At about this time, John Paul II died. The world stopped for a week. Everyone centered in on Rome. The television went on for long hours without commercial interruptions. It was almost impossible to tell the Catholics from the other players, except the prelates from the East with their strange garb. That did it for me. I knew what I had to do. I talked to my husband about the state of my conscience. Not surprisingly, he agreed. He told me that he too was not comfortable. Some days after the funeral of J.P. II the two of us went to see our pastor and simply told him what had been happening to us over time. We described the clinching moment to him. He looked at us and told us that he understood fully. He assured us that no matter where we went, we would be close friends of God. He confessed to us that he too had been a practicing Catholic. He wished us well and we left quietly, our hearts throbbing with joy.

When we reached home we called the local Catholic church and made an appointment to talk to a priest and present ourselves to the sacrament of Reconciliation. The meeting and the confession that took place are a story for another day. The Sunday after that was one of the most glorious days of our lives.

This is a composite story, woven together from the threads of my ministerial memory. I offer it to all the readers of as an exhortation to invite someone to fill in the blanks by coming back home. If you do that and someone does turn it around, I know that you will not cry at my funeral.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Is there someone in the United States of America who has not heard about the dog fighting story involving Michael Vick? For the record, here is my personal take on animals in general.
Animals are creatures of God and as such they are to be respected. They are creatures that have a degree of mental capacity. They have the abiblity to live side by side with us. We recognize that from the moment of creation, we human beings have been entrusted with the management of God's handiwork, one part of which are the animals with which we share the planet. Animals in general do not need our direct and continued intervention for their survival. Some, however, have entered our circle of life and have developed a degree of necessity for our presence, not just for survival but to maintain a style of life that is generally better than they would have in their natural habitat. Some have entered our circle of life for the purpose of sparing us the difficulty of hunting them in the wild. We call them domesticated, but that doesn't necessarily equate to a longer life for them. Some have been domesticated and tamed to help us with work that we could do but with a lot more effort than what we can usually maintain for long periods of time. Finally, we keep some of them for no other reason than for our companionship and some respectful amusement.

In the case of dogs, it is generally accepted that they have been co-existing with humans in a friendly relationship for some 30,000 years. Our relationship with them is rather complex. The beginning of the friendly relationship between humans and wolves, the source population of our domestic animal, remains a mystery. According to one scenario, it would be the wolves themselves who took the first steps to approach humans. They are said to have learned to approach camp fires of hunters, both for warmth and scraps from the meals that had been incompletely consumed. It is believed that wolves and dogs can read the intentions of humans more than any other animal. Dogs provide many important things to us, from food to highly trained companions for the weakest of our brothers and sisters. They even make good movie stars! Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Bengie are good examples.
I don't know if Scooby Doo qualifies, being but a 'toon.

One of my favorite stories about dogs cooperating with high human achievement is the saga of Roald Ahmundsen, the Norwegian explorer who was the first to reach the South Pole. Roald was in a heated race with the British explorer, Robert Scott. Roald won because he had the best strategy. He rushed in with his dog teams and his sleds heavy with equipment. He got there first, left a note and the Norwegian flag for Scott, unloaded all non-essentials from the sleds, turned around, empty sleds, extra dogs and all and ran back to the base camp. On the way he chopped up the extra sleds, used the wood to cook the weaker dogs and came home safely, soundly and proudly. Sad to say, Mr. Scott and all members of his team reached the Pole but perished on the way back.

I like this story because it is a strong illustration of how creatures of vastly different existential capabilities can work together to cause advances in scientific knowledge. We are accompanied by animals and plants on this earth for their good and our good. We are entrusted with the dominion [management] of the earth by God. It is not for us to play games with. It is not for us to exploit beyond repair. It is not for us to disrespect. In the case of training dogs to fight to the death, such as happens more often than we like to think, I am convinced that this is a level of brutality towards animals that should not be tolerated. It is so brutal because it contributes to the degradation of the humans who participate in the activity. The immorality of the behavior has a two-fold source, the unnecessary destruction of a living being as well as the demeaning and degradation of the human spirit. I have to say that I see this as a sin against creation. It is a sin against the commandment of God to care for his creation. True it is that as humans we have the right to use creation for our own good and to perfect it as we go along. We are called and mandated by God to be pro-creators. When we fail to live as such, we harm not only ourselves as individuals but our actions reflect poorly on the community of humans.

I am not an animal lover. I respect them. I don't give them any of my emotional currency. I don't abuse their bodies and I respect what psychology they have. When I think that this is one more life that can contribute to God's glory, I can't help but respect it. I dare say that this respect for animal life is tucked away in a small corner in the back of our human conscience. Rarely, if ever, do we mention animal life as a "pro-life" issue. It is true that animal life exists for the service that it can provide for human beings. I maintain that this life has to be at the service of noble human activity, not to be destroyed for humans to exercise their base desires. I also know that I may never hear a pro-life presentation that will include a plea for respect due to animal life, but the crass and brutal activities of dog fighting, cock fighting and bull fighting don't ennoble the human reason for living, and should therefore disappear from the face of the earth.

So, brothers and sisters, don't expect to ever see me with a pet. The reflections presented here address an extreme action. There are other ways that humans abuse animals. Some are more reprehensible than others. They should all be avoided. Let us all maintain a high level of regard for the animals that God gives us and with which we share the earth.

Friday, August 3, 2007


CMotu Proprio
Hey, all you Church dilettanti and afficinados(as) of the internal workings of your favorite Institute. Did you know that before Summorum Pontificum another important Motu Proprio had been promulgated? I did not know of it, and yet I consider myself to be a rather avid watcher of Vatican news. Believe me, I do not gest when I say that this Motu Proprio was also of eminent importance. Although it was promulgated before the one concerning the liturgy, it was only given recognition when a reporter at a news conference asked how many votes Cardinal Josef Ratzinger received on the round when he was elected. Now for the Cardinal taking the questions, to answer this with the truth would have been a mortal sin, a sacrilege. So he just skirted around it saying something to the effect that no one remembered that anymore since all the ballots had been burned.
What's going on here? you ask. Why ask that question now, nearly two years after the election? Aha! That's what I'm about to tell you.
In June Pope Benedict XVI issued a Motu Proprio reinstituting the ancient rules regarding the number of votes needed to elect a pope. These had been changed by Pope JP II [...He loves you too.] JP II had changed the rules to speed thngs up after 34 rounds of unsuccessful voting. That is, after 34 rounds it would only take an absolute majority (one half plus one) to elect a new pope. With the stroke of a pen, Benedict XVI sent the rules back to the 11th century. They state that it takes 2/3 of those voting to elect the pope, no matter what.
So why did the question come up during a press conference in August? Well, the huge international stuff which was being leaked little by little from back in January finally hit the fan in July, remember? It's all quiet now in the minds of people. Besides, Benedict XVI is now well rooted in his new position. To ask how many votes he had received to win the election was asking whether or not he himself had indeed garnered the requisite 2/3 majority. In his case, seventy-seven would have been needed. It is reported that he indeed received 84 votes after only 5 ballots. It is therefore conceded that Pope Benedict XVI had absolutely no political axes to grind nor any bones to pick. This decision by Benedict XVI is hailed more by the leftists than the conservatives, but for the moment, there is so much trust in our Holy Father's tenure thus far that peace reigns in the house.
The international community had a lot to say and much to opine over with the Latin Motu Proprio and the document defining the Church. Buzz is always good because it makes us learn about the Church. It teaches us that taking sides is not necessarily bad. Sometimes, the lack of buzz is a good thing because then someone like me who lives by the buzz can use the lack thereof to make an important point about our lives as a Catholic community. There are a couple of important points here.
1. Traditional practices can serve as solid anchors for our present times.
2. The election of a pope must be above the pressure of time used to arrive at the truth.
3. The electors must learn to avail themselves of the many oporrtunities that the modern world gives them to get to know one another through travel and electronic communications. That in and of itself should prevent a papal election from stretching out too long.

The Church is a busy place. Not all that is done is equally as important from day to day, but it does all have a reason to be there. Just like every other organization, some of it is exciting, some is boring, some is saddening and some is exhilerating. All of it is God's.