Thursday, September 13, 2007


Dear Readers, this Sunday the world is going to consider the folly of the man who has come to be known as the Prodigal Son. It is a parable that is perhaps better known than many of Aesop's fables. It is going to be a boring Sunday for many of us, because this is one of those days when it will be difficult to find a real creative presentation of what Jesus intended when He told the story. I have been tossing and turning this story around in my head for many years and a while ago, I got inspired. I listened to what the father told the stay-at-home-son, "My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours." (Luke, chapter 15, verse 21) It struck me then that both sons were wrong- headed and the father was the wise person in the family. (Sorry, ladies, but the mother is not mentioned in this story.)

I got this inspiration when it came to me that Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a man so bright and so holy that he is known as a Doctor of the Church proposed a key to the understanding of the parables. He suggested that in all parables Jesus, His Church and the Faithful all appear symbolically as in Salvation history. He applied this spiritual insight first and foremost to the parable of the Good Samaritan. It works very well here too. The father is Christ, the Savior. The house (home) is the Church. The boys are the faithful (the people). Think about it.

The beauty of the story is that both sons start out on equal footing and even though the younger one does something stupid, he gets feted and his brother gets silenced. Isn't that the way God is. We all start out on the same footing. We can all relate to God assuring us that "...all that I have is yours." Isn't it true that we don't get it? In this story neither the younger nor the elder was convinced of this truth. The younger displayed his ignorance by asking for his share before his father died. The elder stayed around but never came to believe the truth of how rich he really was until he too challenged his father for what he thought was rightfully his. His father told him straight-up about the reality of his situation.

The challenge that comes to us from this story is the same that comes to us from Jesus in all His stories: "Until you hate your mother and father you cannot be my disciple." "If you don't leave the 99 sheep to look for the one who got away, you are not my disciple." "If you don't eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have everlasting life." "Blind? If you were, you would not be guilty, but since you say, 'We see', your guilt remains." This is exactly what happens here in today's story. The younger brother goes from being blind to seeing. The elder brother remains self righteously blind, not accepting that "all I have is yours."

Some of you reading this can relate to the story first hand. Some of us "cradle Catholics" take what we have for granted. We begin by not seeing our own sinfulness and unworthiness, and we fancy that we are much better than others, and that nobody is worthy to be put by our side. We find ourselves unable to take pleasure when others are forgiven and accepted.
Some of you "returning Catholics" are grateful for the love and understanding that the Church has extended to you despite your "folly". In this passage, Jesus teaches us that the conversion of any soul ought to be an occasion of joy to all who see it. Our Lord shows us this by putting the following words into the mouth of the prodigal's father--"We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!"

Some of you started from afar and came to find the house where the party is. You followed the younger one to the house and have been included in the all embracing hug of Jesus himself.

The lesson is one which we shall all do well to lay to heart. Nothing ought to give us such true pleasure as the conversion of souls. It makes angels rejoice in heaven. It ought to make Christians rejoice on earth. What if those who are converted were lately the vilest of the vile? What if they have served sin and Satan for many long years, and wasted their substance in riotous living? It matters nothing. "Has grace come into their hearts? Are they truly penitent? Have they come back to their father's house? Are they new creatures in Christ Jesus? Are the dead made alive and the lost found?"

We have a daily banquet table around which to gather and celebrate. Let us warm ourselves in the loving embrace of Jesus, always leaving some space for the lost sibling who is fighting his way back into the family. If you know whom it could be, extend the invitation. Make it easy for this courageous soul to come home. Trust me, the more that happens, the fewer will be those who cry at my funeral, and maybe even yours.

Monday, September 10, 2007


I am 74 years old. I have an advanced degree in Theology. I don't think that I have missed a Sunday Mass 10 times in my life. I have participated in the Holy Mass hundreds of times on Sunday and during the week. I have done this in hundreds of churches in at least 10 countries plus the West Bank. Needless to say I have listened to countless homilies and slept through more than I can count. But not long ago, September 10, 2007, four days after the 70.5 point of my first glimpse of the light of day, I had a new experience. After the homily, the church broke out in applause. I was flummoxed.

What on earth were you applauding? It is now 4 years after the event and I still can't believe it happened. I still can't figure what you were applauding. In church! After a homily that was laughable? yes; deserving of applause? no, no and no!

My take:

1. This was a bombastic display of misplaced human energy. 15 minutes of high volume blasting into a Lavaliere microphone while stalking back and forth across the front of the altar. Yelling and stalking in front of the ALTAR. The holy ALTAR, the TABLE of the Eucharistic banquet. The ambo is off to the side of the Altar because the Altar has the primordial position in the church. The Tabernacle is off to the side of the church because the Altar is the center of our worship during the Holy and Sacred Sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharistic Banquet. This man desecrated the position of the altar and he got applause!

2. He described two sacraments of service: Matrimony and Holy Orders. In describing these he didn't forget to mention that wives have to render service to their husbands and children. He somehow forgot to describe the husband's role in this relationship. That was because he was on a roll and was in a hurry to say that the priest is ordained to serve, and has chosen to serve people rather than the business complex of the world. "That's why you call me Father." Is that what you were applauding?

3. He worked his way down to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Peter. Of course he was high on St. Peter being the Rock and all that. Then he said how wonderful it was to see the Blessed Virgin bow down and humbly accept St. Peter as the head of the church without complaint. Excuse me! When Mary was around, she, pure Judean by birth and upbringing and marriage (she was born in Jerusalem and Joseph in Bethlehem) would not bow down humbly to this smelly, Galilean fisherman. Let me remind you of a few things about Mary. She raised the Child. She protected Him by running down through the Sinai desert to Egypt to protect Him. She scolded Him in front of the rabbis in the Temple. After His cavalier twelve year old retort, she took Him home to Nazareth where He grew in age, stature, wisdom and grace while being obedient to her. Jesus never got the last word with her. Check out the story of Cana. "Do whatever He tells you." Finally, where was Peter when she was standing at the foot of the cross where the One that he had denied was hanging? You applauded this guy for saying that Mary bowed down humbly and accepted Peter as the head of the Church?

On top of all that, while Mary was around, Peter was having zero success in his mission to the Jews. So he was on the coast in Caesarea, talking to the Gentile Romans up and down the coast. Mary was in Jerusalem where St. James was the head of the church. You can look it up in the Acts of the Apostles. If you look it up, I hope you will feel that applauding after a homily, this one in particular, is a mistake.

The priest giving this male triumphalistic bluster is a Missionary of Our Lady of La Salette. God did not send St. Peter to La Salette in France when He had a point to make to the world in the same year that Marx promulgated the Communist Manifesto (1846). He sent His mother, Mary. And she didn't sound too humble either. Listen:
"If my people will not submit, I feel constrained to let the arm of my Son fall upon them. It is so strong and so heavy that I can hardly hold it up and protect you any more. It has been such a long time that I suffer for you. If I do not want my Son to let His arm fall upon you, I must pray for you all the time and yet, you do not pay attention..."
And this is only the beginning. "Those who drive the carts can't swear without putting my Son's name in the middle of their curses. You have six days to work. Yet you do not worship when you go to Mass. When you go to Mass you just go there to mock at religion. During Lent, you go to the meat market like dogs." Did this La Salette Missionary forget this during his endless swagger? Where is Peter, Father? And you in the pews, you applauded?!?

I think that you applauded for the "cute" way he speaks English. I admit that for a Filipino who has never lived in the United States, his English is really quite articulate, grammatically correct and his syntax is good. He is full of Filipino/Tagalog Anglicisms, some of which are humorous and some of which made you laugh. Is that why you go to Sunday Mass? For a performance? Since you applauded, did you give more to the collection? I'm going to check the numbers next week.

I don't think that you applauded for his witty and intelligent reference to Exodus and Leviticus at an early stage of his homily. How many of you have read Exodus? Leviticus? How long would it take you to find these Scriptures without looking at the table of contents at the front of the book?

If you applauded because you like any of these things, it was wrong. The church says that the homily is part of the lesson of the Sacred Scripture for the day. It is not a performance by the priest. It is a liturgical act on the part of the priest. It is a liturgical moment that belongs to the Scriptural lesson that the Church gives us for that Mass. It is a liturgical moment during which the presider of the Sacred Eucharistic Banquet shares his spiritual convictions with the participants in the Mass who are sitting in the pews. This is not Paul's moment. Nor is it Tim's, or Jake's or Jim's. It is God's moment. It is the moment when the priest speaks in the living faith that he has that the Spirit is guiding his tongue. The Mass does not belong to the presiding priest. It belongs to Jesus; it belongs to the Church. The priest does not deserve any applause for any liturgical moment that he provides according to the rituals of the Church. God deserves our prayer of thanks for giving the priest the inspiration to say things that move us in the direction in which God wants us to go.

I don't care whether you applauded for the content or for the style. In both instances, you should have contained your enthusiasm and given it silently to God. Why? well, for starters, the content left plenty to be desired and the style was downright offensive and liturgically erroneous.
I know that after reading this you're sure as shooting not going to cry at my funeral. In fact, you're probably wondering why it is taking so long for it to happen. Talk to God about it. Maybe He'll tell you. He sure isn't letting me know what his schedule is. If it will make you feel any better, make a comment about what you have just read. Don't be shy. I'll even answer you. I will never change my mind. Applauding a homily is wrong.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Dear Publisher:
I have just spent an hour reading selected articles from I have to be totally frank with you. I rarely, if ever do this. I invest a lot of time in the creation and upkeep of the material in the publication, but I rarely read more than what I have to in order to accomplish my mission to the end product. Today, though, I am taking it easy because I am trying to get a vicious attack of the gout to subside.
I am impressed. Like a friend of mine yesterday, I am practically left speechless. Decidedly a rarity for me. You can tell that I have since recovered from my initial lingual stricture. I am all the more in awe of the publication because I know that I was playing around in only one third of the "sandbox". I didn't open any if the specific sites maintained by individual parishes. [30 some odd]. I also am not a fan of the audio and video features offered, but I know that this is a highly prized section of

As I sit here I am reminded of an article that I read on the Internet a few weeks ago that reminded us consumers that the vast majority of us use about 2% of the computing power that we own and control. I can't help but think of myself. 1 PC, 2 laptops, 1 Treo and one state of the art 10.1 megapixel, watch pocket sized digital camera with a 2 gigabyte chip, that takes very good video as well. As you read that last sentence, you were convinced as I am that I am one of the two-percenters.
I split my living arrangements in two, between Moreno Valley and San Diego, but that doesn't stop me from communicating and producing. I have access to the Internet no matter where I go. I spent over one month in Asia Minor and Europe in March and April and never missed a beat. I even contributed a daily blog about my stay in the Holy Land, pictures and all. You saw it all, and can still access it in

It makes me think of what I have been going through for the past 35 or 40 years. I live in San Diego. The reaction of people who come to find out where I live is invariably, "How lucky! San Diego is sooo beautiful." As a wise man once said, "Luck is the residue of design." He was right, whoever he happens to be. I know that I made a conscious decision to live in San Diego because of my appreciation for the region. It was not luck. I admit that I did not make a conscious, seriously pre-meditated decision to come to because of a deep appreciation for something with which I had become intimately familiar. Nope! It was simply because I am an adventurous and curious person who loves the feel of change and the challenge of conquering the new. I also have to say that the publisher had plied me with wine, food and music on the night of my decision. I have never looked back. I knew then and know now that God had just tickled the whale's throat and it threw me up on the beach at It was not luck.

It is with totally unabashed pride that I say that, unlike Jonah, I am glad to be here. I can say that Wally's brain child is indeed a beauty of world class quality. I can assure you that once you have tried it and stay with it a while, you'll look forward to having it in your E-mail week after week. When did you ever have such an interesting magazine that you don't have recycle? When did you ever subscribe to a Catholic magazine that was not censored, therefore making it all the more interesting? When did you ever subscribe to a magazine that did not make you feel guilty and sloppy because you were storing it in your bathroom for toilet reading? When did you ever subscribe to a magazine that provides you with a search engine to help you find that one idea that you just have to find now, but can't remember where you saw it last?

Finally [a], when is the last time that you, Mr. Joe Catholic and Ms Jane Pew had a magazine delivered to you that brought you the Grace of God in the form of interesting news columns?
Finally [b] click on the "Choose your Parish" block and click on the Model Parish. Read it well by using the tabs. Then go tell your Pastor that this is how you would like to get the information about your parish. He, and your colleagues in Christ will love you for it.

A year or so ago, God called me to a new form of evangelization. I am happy that I had the common sense to say "yes" to this new vocation. It's a good thing too. This way I know why I didn't die young. He still had a few things for me to do. He still needs some time to clean the old man up. I don't know when He is going to decide to fire me. I just hope that when He decides that I have done all He ever wanted me to do, He'll do it
quickly, with no second thoughts. When that happens, you will have absolutely no reason to cry at my funeral.
Paul Dion, STL , Theology Editor

Monday, September 3, 2007


This is simple. The Catholic Church teaches that human works, in and of themselves do not have the power to save us. Check this out:
Council of Trent, 1547, the Church convened to issue a proclamation on justification. In Canon 1 the Catholic council declared:
“If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his
own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.”
Canon 3 says very clearly::
“If anyone says that without the predisposing inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without His help, man can believe, hope, love or be repentant as he ought, so that the grace of justification may be bestowed upon Him, let him be anathema.”

That having been said, works are necessary adjuncts to our faith, fruits of the inspiring grace of the Holy Spirit.

Look at it this way:

God worked for six days straight before taking a breather.
He delegated Adam and Eve to manage (have dominion over) His creation. After the fall, he really put them to work, to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow.
He loved Abel because of his sweet smelling sacrifices.
He punished Cain, not by taking work away from him but by forcing him to learn a new trade.
He put Noah to work to help Him save the good people and the innocent animals. All except those silly Unicorns (You have to hear this) who were too busy playing rather than working.
Can you begin to imagine the work He had Abraham do?
Jacob surely didn't have much time to himself with his 12 children.
Joseph, Jacob's son was instrumental in getting food to the Chosen People during a vicious famine by being an "insider" in the Pharaoh's court.
Then Yaweh called Moses to organize the Israelites and lead them back home. Forty years in the desert!
Joshua takes over and struggles to get them all safely into Jerusalem.
Samuel takes over the lead of the army.
Saul is chosen but turns out to be a bad choice. He spends a lot of his time chasing David in order to kill him.
God is on David's side. Twice David could have killed Saul and twice he spared him.
David centered worship in Jerusalem.
Solomon takes over and builds the Temple, among other things. (This is a family publication)
God is really putting these people to work, right?

I'm going to take a breather here and just briefly mention all the work that God gave the prophets. Some famous, some not, but all gave their lives to God. It was tough. God told Isaiah, "...Go to these hard hearted people. Beware, the more you speak, the deafer they will become..." Paraphrase of Isaiah 6: 9+ 10.

I'm not going to forget my favorites, the Maccabee brothers. Their revolt against the Greeks brought the Temple back under the control of the Israelites.

So, OK, we will talk about the New Testament movers and shakers,

John the Baptist, preaching and baptizing and calling the King out for his sexual escapades.
Jesus didn't exactly sit still either, now did he?
He also kept His disciples on the move.
He never cured anyone without telling them to go now and do something, even if it was a simple, "sin no more."

Finally he tells us to go and baptize all nations. Now that's a direct commandment to get to work.
There is no room in God's plan of salvation for lay-abouts. If Yaweh works; if Jesus works; if they tell us to help them in their work, who are we to say "no" and then proclaim that we that we believe because faith alone in Jesus Christ is all that is expected of us? We have to take the parable of Jonah to heart. We can't wait until we get swallowed by the whale. We must believe and work at the same time.

What about Paul in 1 Corinthians, 9;16, "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel." I am under compulsion. God is making me do it. If it weren't for him it would be my work and I would be proud of it. But because it is His, I don't boast and He therefore gets the credit for work well done. He then reaches in and touches the hearts who listen to Him through me.

By the way, to whom was Jesus talking to when He talks about the final judgment? Sounds like He's telling us to work or loose heaven.

I therefore invite you all to Believe and to bring your belief (faith) into gear. If you don't, I'm going to leave you behind after having lived a full life of faith and works for Him. I can't help it, my name is Paul. If and when you cry at my funeral, I will joyfully cross the Red Sea of your tears and hope that when your eyes clear, you'll get to work so we can enjoy the sweet angelic music of heaven together as we "Whistle While we Work."


The Dead Sea Scrolls are our bridge to a period that laid the foundation of western traditions, beliefs and practices throughout the past two millennia. My wife and I went to San Diego to visit the exhibit. It is touted to be the largest ever to be assembled outside of Israel since the discovery of the Scrolls.
The exhibit is being presented by Joan and Irwin Jacobs of San Diego, California. Mr. Jacobs is one of the two partners who founded Qualcomm. This is the company that invented the CDMA format that makes cell phones work. This family is one of the leading philanthropic families in the United States.
The exhibit covers 12,000 square feet of the Museum of Natural History in San Diego's Balboa Park which is located just south of the famous San Diego Zoo.
We went on a Friday afternoon and there were quite a few visitors. The entry fee is rather steep for my tastes, some $27.00 for adults. There is a discount for children and seniors and the prices are lower from Monday through Thursday. Security is tight and remiscent of our visit to the Holy Land which was detailed here some months ago. In fact my wife said, "Hmm, this is like crossing over to the West Bank." Somewhat, but without the need for a passport. You will be asked to produce I.D. A driver license will suffice.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are important biblical manuscripts that were discovered in the caves of Qumran, a city some 40 miles south of Jerusalem, not far from the Dead Sea. None of the scrolls are related to the New Testament. All of them on display are fragments. The amount of work and patience that it takes to put them back together and make sense of them is staggering. Part of the exhibit is a demonstration of how the people who are dedicated to this work do it. The scrolls make up one of three parts of the show.
The first part is a series of stunning photographs of Israel itself. It is interesting to see these photos because they tell so much about the land of Israel. I was impressed at this introduction to the scrolls themselves. Part of the photograph study takes the visitor through the site of the discovery itself and introduces the key players in the recovery and study of the artifacts. There are different hypotheses as to the way the discovery, recovery and study of the scrolls. The exhibit is presented in such a way as to conduct the visitor through one of the theories, the oldest one, and the one that was constructed by the Dominican who was first put in charge of the project, Father De Vaux.
The second part of the exhibit is the showing of the scrolls themselves. They are not easy to see and the lighting is not always sufficient for old eyes like mine. When I go back, I will bring along a loupe to help me out when I get to this part of the layout. There are only 12 scrolls, but I found that it is enough to give a flavor of what it is that was found. Each fragment is accompanied by its biblical or in some cases, its non-biblical reference and its translation.
Down the hall the exhibit comes to its conclusion with a stunning array of ancient illuminated bibles.
The first part of the exhibit is guided by plaques on the wall. The other two parts are self - guided with the help of hand held recorders. The rental of this apparatus is included in the entry fee. The exhibit is not meant to be for the technical experts in the field of Bible Study or archeology. It is aimed at the general public, and the general public can enjoy it and learn much about the question of where the Bible comes from and how it is assembled into one common sense piece of work. The exhibit is also not meant to stir controversy. It puts forth one story, and one story only. It is a very plausible theory and stands quite strongly to this very day. The tri-folds that are available at the site provide schedules of professional presentations dedicated to providing more insights to the various questions being raised about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some of that information can also be obtained by clicking here.
The exhibit will be open to the public until December 31, 2007. It is my opinion that thoses of you who live in Southern California, or will be in the area between now and the end of the year should make it a point to spend the 2 to 3 hours that it takes to make the tour. There are more specifics about it here. If you go to this one, you will not have to cry at my funeral.