Thursday, November 20, 2008


Servant Kings
By Paul Dion, STL

This Sunday is a day when we are going to scratch our heads and ask ourselves about this celebration that we call Christ the King. If ever there was a celebration that seemed out of character, this could be the one. We remember all the readings and the homilies that we have heard about Jesus being merciful, kind, generous, patient, forgiving and healing. We look inside of ourselves and remember the times when He said that we had to give up everything and follow him. He, in fact, had nothing. He said that "the birds have their nests and the foxes their dens, but the Son of Man does not have a place to lay His head." (Matt. 8;20). He also said, "you think that I have come to bring peace, but I do not come to bring peace, I come to bring the sword." (Matt. 10; 34) Really? What sword? Whose army? Oh, and by the way, was that a horse I saw you riding the other day? Say, Rabbi, were those tears I saw running down your cheek when John the Baptist was killed? Herod is still around making our life miserable. What are you doing about it? Messiah? HHHmmm. Your ancestor David sure would wonder about that. He was a lot tougher that you have ever been.

It is clear that there have been some good and kind kings in the history of the world. Some of them have even been canonized as saints of the Catholic Church. It is still intriguing to ask if Jesus could have passed for one of them. Most of them, if not all, had nice places to live. If they didn't have them, they built them. Even David did that. However, one day "After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, "Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent." (1 Chronicles; 17: 1) Nathan then had an inspiration from God and conveyed it to David, thus: "Go and tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build
me a house to dwell in. I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their leaders whom I commanded to shepherd my people, "Why have you not built me a house of cedar?" (1 Chronicles 17: 4-7) God told Nathan that it would not be David to built Him His house, but David's son, Solomon. So it came to be that Solomon built the temple.
God in heaven has his angels. Moses had his Joshua. David had his Nathan. Jeremiah had his Baruch. Paul had his Barnabas. Jesus? He had 12 roughnecks who took a long time before they finally got their (His) act together.

This is a King? Is it possible that Jesus would not agree with this celebration? Is it possible that Jesus knew enough of His Bible history to remember how the Israelites got a king in the first place? As Samuel, he last of the Judges was getting old, the people came to him and said: "We want to be like the rest of the people. We want to have a king." (1 Samuel 8. This is required reading for today's feast) Samuel took this to God. God told Samuel to give them a king, but only after explaining to them what it would mean to them. The people insisted on the king idea despite the arguments of Samuel. Instead taking the responsibility of choosing a king for them, He had them vote. Not before
he warned them, in so many words, "Be careful what you ask for." The people chose Saul. He was a miserable king, fighting all the time. He also hated David and tried to kill him. David could have killed Saul on two separate occasions, but spared his life. Saul and his sons finally got killed by the Philistines and God's choice, David, became king.

Ah, David! Great Sinner...Great Saint! We are lucky to have David as a forerunner of Jesus. It is a superb study in contrasts. Of course, Jesus never sinned. Of course, David was a great king too. David came to know that it was better to be a kind ruler and a spiritual force rather than to be a savage warrior. He didn't loose his toughness, he focused it in a different direction. When we consider Jesus, we don't really see a king. We see someone regal who is not afraid of kings. That ran in the family. His cousin John was the same way. He told Herod that what he was doing was wrong. Jesus told Pilate, "You would have no authority if it were not given to you from above." (John 19;11) Jesus knew who was King. He is the the same One who told His Chosen People to be careful what they asked for. Jesus stood before the earthly powers and stood up to them. He remembered the psalms that say that our strength is in God, not in riches nor in human position. David the great saint knew what he was talking about when he wrote those powerful prayers.
Jesus knew that the words had been inspired by God and He lived them out. The victory was won on Easter Sunday morning. It was then that He introduced the good kings to His Father and no doubt watched as the bad ones went
to meet Be'elzebub.
That's when the Kingdom was born. The Man who had not where to lay His head. The Man who warned that He had brought the sword, who warned that He had come to set father against son. The Man who had no secretary. The Man who had nothing but His burning desire to fulfill His mission by serving His Father's subjects won the final battle. He actually beat death. Not only did He beat it, but He took all His followers under His wings and thus we all
beat death too. He also beat back the darkness of people's minds and enlightens us with the secret of how He accompanies us on the campaign towards that self-same victory over death. Under His wings, in the warmth of the Holy Spirit, we are therefore all kings. Kings without a palace; kings without a throne; kings without a horse; kings without a sword, but like Jesus, kings with a towel.
Here's a reminder from today's reading: (John, chapter 13)
"3 during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, 4 he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his
waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.... ''14 You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. 15 I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do."
So, we are sent to rule in the Kingdom of God just as His Son did, with a towel around our waist, love in our hearts and the ardent fire of non-negotiable zeal constantly burning a brand in our entire being. It is not the trappings of an earthly kingdom that make us strong, it is the intensity of our faith that we receive from the Holy Spirit and live out in our lives as unwavering disciples of Jesus Christ Himself.

The result of all this intensity? You will be free not to cry at my funeral. Do you know why? Because I won't have to wear that towel any more!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Luke 11: 33 - 36

[33] "No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. [34] Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. [35] See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. [36] Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you."

Luke puts these words into the mouth of Jesus. They contain more truth than a lot of people can deal with. We all go through life experiencing the lack of truth around us. We all go through life wondering who among us is living the truth through and through. There are very few people, if any, who shine brightly with the inner truth of God’s presence. Like the philosopher Diogenes, we find ourselves living in a barrel, walking the streets in broad daylight carrying a lighted lamp, seeking an honest person shining with internal truth, fearless in sharing it. Mostly what we find are people who consider what they do and what they say as truthful because it accommodates their opinion and their comfort zone. I’m sure that you’re looking for examples. OK, here we go. Look for yourself here, because you and I are here somewhere.

“Are you honest in all that you do?”
“I certainly am”
“Do you know anyone who is completely honest?”
“HHmmmm, well… not really.”
“So, you don’t trust anyone else then?”
“Well, I trust some people.”
“So they are completely honest, then?”
“Well, not really.”
“So, why do you trust them?”
“Well, because I know them.”
“So what you mean is that you know what not to trust them with?”
“Isn’t that a little confusing? Do you make mistakes sometimes?”
“Oh, yes I do. But then I know how to protect myself against that person’s weakness.”
“Do you have a test that you can use?”
“I have one for money and one for time.”
“Let’s try the money one first.”
“If you ask me to borrow $5.00 I will never say ‘no’ the first time.”
“Yes, really. I have a conviction that $5.00 is an inexpensive way to find a friend.”
“So, what about the ‘time’ test?”
“I am always punctual. I give everyone about 3 minutes’ leeway for appointments. If a person makes me wait longer than that, even the first time, I will no longer trust that person to be on time no matter what.”
“Isn’t everyone late now and then?”
“Of course, that’s why I said that there are no honest people except me.”
“So you have dishonest friends?”
“No, I have dishonest acquaintances who think that I am their friend.”
“Doesn’t that make you dishonest?”

It is true that we live in a world that is complicated. For some reason it is practically impossible for us to be as pure and truthful as the light of the candle. The candle never lies. When it is not lit, it isn’t very useful. There are times when even when it is lit, it is not useful, such as in broad daylight. Then again, there are times when in broad daylight a lit candle can be useful…such as helping to take away the odor of cooked fish from the room. Then again, an unlit candle can also serve as a simple decoration in a small room. St. Luke’s example of a candle then, can carry more than one lesson. Perhaps the most basic one is that a candle is never anything but a candle. We children of God can appear to be candles of truth and honesty, but in reality affect the world in deceiving ways. The difficulty that we have is that we consider ourselves to be truthful and honest. We don’t ever worry about our lack of honesty or truthful purity. Part of the reality of this is that there are several faces to the truth as we know it. Let’s take a professional athlete as an example. Again, look for yourself here, we are all here.

Executive: “Professional Athlete, you’ve been good for this team for several years now.”
P.A. “Thanks. I enjoy being here.”
Ex. “It’s good having you. We do have a little problem though.”
P.A. “OK, let’s here it.”
Ex. “We are having a cash problem. We will not be able to renew your contract.”
P.A. “Really? I don’t make as much as certain others on the team.”
Ex. “That is true, but your salary is closer to the amount that we have to cut than the others. You know how that is, it’s kind of like eating your cake without seeing it disappear.”
P.A. “OK, so I guess I don’t have a choice, right?”
Ex. “Sadly, we have made a corporate decision, and you are it.”

Every reader of adult age knows that there is some truth and some untruth contained in this conversation. The Professional Athlete may not know what the other two or three facets of the truth regarding his relationship with the team are. Perhaps it is the Giant who doesn’t like small people; or it’s the Neat Freak who doesn’t like slobs; perhaps it is the union steward who hates the fact that Professional Athlete refuses to join the union. Professional Athlete may never know the true reason why he was cut from the team. The Executive will sleep well every single night because he will be comfortable that he didn’t lie to the Professional Athlete. He’ll never once think that he wasn’t honest because after all what he did say was in some ways the more compelling part of the whole truth.

So we are left with the conviction that there are no honest people in the world, except ourselves. We are convinced that even the pastors and bishops of our church are not perfectly honest in their relationship with the world.
We faithful church goers too are often left wondering about just how honest our leaders are. We see our pastors come and go. We see our teachers come and go. Often we are left with nothing but neutral pulpit announcements; often we are left with nothing except the disappearance of a name from the bulletin after the appearance of a new face on campus. These events always make us wonder about the basic honesty in our environment. Where is the candle? Is it lit? Is it off? Is it under a bushel?

We faithful Catholic churchgoers know where to look for the candle. We walk into the church and we see it burning calmly and steadfastly just before the sacramental home of Jesus Christ. The red candle is our beacon of honesty. That red candle is the light on the mountaintop. It is the presence of Jesus Christ transfigured before our very eyes, twenty-four hours a day, into the hot flame of love and justification. It is the light of generosity, of hospitality and of constant comfort. It is the light that no human can extinguish. It is the light that never stops giving, never stops guiding and never stops warming our hearts. No matter how complex our world of fractional truth becomes, the light hanging in the house of God is not fragmented. It is whole. It is Holy. It is simple. It is one. It calls us to be honest, to be simple, to be loving and generous. It lights the path that leads to the One for whom it burns. Let’s let it set our hearts on fire with the Love that fired up the heart of Jesus.

If we follow that light, it will guide us to the eternal happiness of heaven. If we follow that light, there will never be any crying at my funeral nor at anyone else’s.

Monday, September 29, 2008


We have this cute little girl at our house. She was sent to us by God and we love her.
Even our children love her. They have no jealousy about the love that we pour into this little lady. In fact, they contribute generously in pouring their love out to her. When we are not there, they hold her hand to help her take a few halting steps. They warm her water, her milk and her soup with great joy. For the most part, she looks at them with a wide, toothless smile and returns their love.
She is a little different. She's about 4 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs about 62 pounds. She has some very sneaky tricks up her sleeve. She loves to make everyone think that she doesn't understand English. She also loves to make everyone think that she is very hard of hearing. None of this is really true, but we all go along with the joke because that is one of her favorite games. She can't fake us out with her eyesight though, we all know that it is sharp beyond expectations, especially when it is focused on the neighbors' houses. We have to admit that we enjoy the stories that she creates from her observations from the sitting room windows. We enjoyed her fabrications about the rocky relationship between the two young people from across the court. It is always humorous to hear the quasi-fiction that she weaves. It is also interesting to listen to the semi-fiction that she spins about some of the souls who spend a lot of time caring for her. The rolling of eyes among the family members is rather comical in itself.
People come and go and she relentlessly asks them if they have eaten if they are arriving; the question is the same as they prepare to leave and it is repeated several times during the day to any and all who pass in front of her. It is her way of reaching out to those she loves. She is careful not to insert herself too deeply into the kitchen, being especially careful about not playing with the electric stove. She has found out that it is quite mysterious to have a stove that doesn't have a flame. She has learned how to warm her drinking water by using the microwave oven. She has also come around to cooking rice in the automatic rice cookers that rest on the kitchen counter.
One of the more humorous, although dangerous portions of her antics, is her constant effort to escape from inside the house and head for the garden. We keep telling her that it is dangerous for her to try to negotiate the stairs without help, but our counsel just goes in one ear and out the other. We have found her crumpled up on the driveway, at the foot of the steps, struggling to get back on her feet. It's always a laugh to see her frightened looks. We know that she is not afraid of the fall, but of the fact that she has been caught off base. She accepts our help to return to the sitting room where she sits with hanging head and listens to our admonitions. No matter how much we tell her that she could fall and nearly kill herself or handicap herself physically, she just laughs because so far, every time she has fallen, she has come out smelling like a rose. The one thing that does happen though, is that her asthma and enphysema attack her, and that is always a sobering experience.
This cute little girl is my dear mother-in-law, 88 year old Florfina. I have featured her here before. She has not always been as hale and hardy as she is at this moment. She provides the family with happiness and joy. She is herself enjoying a return to her childhood, true enough, but it is not always a happy trip. I am often reminded of the words that Jesus told Peter after asking him for a third time, "Do you love me?" and Peter
said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you. "

Jesus then said to him,
"Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. " (John 21:15-19)Florfina is in the unenviable position of many older human beings who have to live their lives out under very restrictive conditions. They have sharp, dynamic minds, good eyesight, good hearing, good appetite for food and so many other things struggling for expression in bodies so debilitated that they are prisoners of their longevity. They have good families who surround them with love, psychological, spiritual and emotional stimulation as well as physical care in comfortable circumstances. I, like the rest of us who participate in her ongoing care are enjoying ourselves. We like being around her because she is a good example of how to struggle with being gracious while being under siege to old age. Through her, God is telling us the same thing that He told Peter 2,000 years ago. It is like living the Gospel every day, right before our very eyes.

The point of all this is that there is a huge human and spiritual upside to giving loving care to our aging parents. This is more than obeying the 4th commandement, this is Love in action. This is the answer to the Mission given to us by Jesus to care for the sick, sustain the widows, etc. It is a two way street. Happy care givers in the person of children and extended family members provide truly pure consolations to all the members of the household, young and old, strong and weak, loud and quiet as well as close and distant. Don't look for a "HOME", create one. By doing so, you will bring God into the space that exists under your roof. That, in short, means that you will already be living in a small corner of heaven.
Try it, you'll like it. Then you will know that there is absolutely no reason to cry at my funeral.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Jack and Charlie

Two 80 -year-old men, Jack and Charlie, had been friends all of their lives. When it was clear that Jack was dying, Charlie visited him every day. One day Charlie said, 'Jack, we both loved playing golf most our lives, and we played many years, and on many different courses. Please do me one favor: when you get to Heaven, somehow you must let me know if there's a golf course there.'

Jack looked up at Charlie from his death bed and said, 'Charlie, you've been my best friend for many years. If it's at all possible, I'll do this favor for you.' Shortly after that, Jack passed on. At midnight the following Friday, Charlie was awakened from a sound sleep by a blinding flash of white light and a voice calling out to him, 'Charlie, Charlie, my dear friend.' 'Who is it?' asked Charlie, sitting up suddenly. 'Who is it?' Charlie -- it's me, Jack.' 'You're not Jack. Jack just died.' 'I'm telling you , it's me, Jack,' insisted the voice. 'Jack! Where are you?' 'In Heaven,' replied Jack. 'I have some really good news and a little bit of other news.' 'Tell me the good news first,' said Charlie. The good news,' Jack said, 'is that there's Golf in Heaven. Better yet, all of our old buddies who died before us are here, too. Better than that, we're all young again. Better still, it's always springtime, and it never rains or snows. And best of all, we can play golf all we want, and we never get tired.' 'That's fantastic,' said Charlie. 'It's beyond my wildest dreams! So what's the other news' 'You're in our foursome Tuesday.'

Now, see, this is what I've been telling you all, "No Crying at my Funeral."
I do have some reservations though. I hate golf. But I do love pinochle and beer; bridge and scotch and Bourbon and ceviche with fresh chips.

Now I know what I'm going to get when I go to heaven.

And you all thought I had no sense of humor.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I agree with Phil Bloom. I agree with the reflections and meditations and homelies found in the magazine today. They are well thought out and underscore the spiritual depth of the authors. I appreciate them all. They make me think and they make me reach out to God Himself. In that sense, I know that it is going to be a good weekend. I am going to add something to the weekend because I hardly ever am given the opportunity to meditate on the impact that the geography of the Gospels has on what it is that God is trying to tell us. Homelists don't consider it important, I guess.

This is the second Sunday that important revelatory spiritual events take place. None of them occur in the "Holy Land" but in The territory of the pagans, the "others", like the Greeks and the Romans. Last Sunday we heard the story of the Canaanite woman with the daughter possessed by demons. This Sunday we hear the confession of Peter. Next Sunday we are going to hear about Peter begging Jesus not to go to Jerusalem. Jesus is then going to tell Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan." Whoa! Where did that come from? Read on.
In these three Sunday stories, geography is important. Jesus is spending some time in the mixed territory of the Greek and Roman empires. There are very few Jews here (Hebrews). Jesus and His people are over 100 miles to the north of the spiritual heart of the Promised Land. The Temple is 4 or 5 days of foot travel away. The people who are approaching Jesus are "foreigners", not of the chosen people, yet they confess His Divine Power in front of His Jewish disciples. These disciples who are Orthodox Jews (Hebrews) of proper religion and blood. The "foreign" people stand up in front of Him and ask for what they need. They bargain with Him and they get what they request. Next Sunday, Peter, the tough guy, the ONE who has been told that he is the Rock, the foundation of the new community is going to act just like a real Jew, he is going to say, "Don't talk like that, nothing like that is going to happen to you." Yup, this is the same Peter who asked to walk on water but who doubted once his feet got wet. This is the same Peter who heard the Syro-Phoenician woman tell Jesus, "Even the dogs eat from the droppings of the king's table." All this is happening in territory that is not spiritually orthodox. Did Jesus make a mistake by coming here? NO. Jesus is the quintessential missionary. Son of David, Son of God does not camp out in Jerusalem (City of Peace), he grows up and preaches in the land of Israel, not in the land of Judah. He goes to Jerusalem to fulfill the law that says that all Jewish men must go to the Temple to pray at least once per year. The rest of the time He operates in the North, in Galilee. He spreads the message to the Chosen People and the "foreigners" in the North showing them that He is sent by the Father to EVERYONE, not just to the sons of Judah but to all the people of God. He shows them that the fisherman takes all that he catches on board and sorts it out when he gets to the dock. He teaches them that God chose them for a purpose, and the He is among them to teach them what the purpose is.

Finally, at the end He goes to Jerusalem and meets the rabid community of the Chosen People around the Temple. They capture Him and do Him in by using the Roman military to carry out the deed. This fulfills the history of the prophets sent by God to the Chosen people...they preached and were killed because of the hardness of heart of the people.

These Gospel stories are geography lessons. They are stories of revelation. They are also history lessons of where the Chosen People of God settled and how they related to Him. The people of the North (Israel) were considered to be hicks and red-necks by the snobs of the South (Judah).

Listen to the stories that are being recounted at the Sunday Masses this month. Matthew is telling us a lot. He is telling us that the revelation of God is not meant only for a select few, but for EVERYONE, circumcized or not; born in Judah or born in Syria, Phoenicia or Rome.
If you want to have a better understanding and a greater appreciation of the revelation contained in the Sacred Scripture, read the map every time you read the Bible. Try not to die before you get to meet Jesus on His home turf.

Remember that you heard it here. It will help you to hold back your tears at my funeral.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


You will notice that the whole of the country has "politics fever" these days. There is even a new book by a Catholic Archbishop about Catholicism and politics. Some of the thoughts in the book are very challenging. They fly in the face of some of the "conventional wisdom" that we encounter every day. In fact, some of his statements even fly in the face of our conscience. What? Why do I say that? Hang on to your false teeth, this isn't going to be an easy ride.

Remember the blog post about yoga? We stated the position of the Church about yoga. We even quoted a document from the Vatican. There are people to this day who will not read us because they think we are some kind of right wing organization. Why, even the archbishop of Los Angeles has said some nice things about yoga, so there.

Remember the one about lying? We clung to the tight line and said that lying was wrong, even just a little bit no matter what. We got swatted for that one too. After all, everyone lies, sometime. My position is, unless you're lying to the Gestapo or the SSS to save some poor waif's life, it's wrong. There see, I made a concession.

We all know deep down that killing is wrong, but do you remember the blog post in which we said that it is wrong to perform an abortion even to save the mother's life? We took heat from that one too. Sam Brownback who brought it up to begin with really caused a dust storm over it.

Permit me to go out of the "No Crying at my Funeral" box a little bit and talk about bribery. We all know that it is wrong. It is so wrong that we cluck our tongues when we see the situation that the third world lives in because of the rampant bribery that takes place there. We are all very sure that it doesn't take place here. Really? Are we sure why the telecom companies got protected? Why we don't have autos that run on hydrogen yet? Why the fleet average of the major auto makers has gone up out of sight over the last decade? Why just about all the construction contracts in Iraq have gone to one or two companies? We know in our hearts that there are plenty of right hands being washed by the left ones in the whole mess, now don't we? Yes we do. These observations have all contributed to dulling our consciences to the hard, cold edge of the Truth. We all think that it is OK to lie, cheat and steal, just a little bit from anyone and everyone because it makes our life easier. So what conscience are we left with when it comes time to vote?

Is it the conscience that says that abortion is wrong? Is it the one that knows that an unprovoked war is wrong? Is it the one that gets angry at the misuse and exploitation of our natural resources? Is it the one that abhors bribery in any form, even lobbying? Is it the one that gets inflamed at the thought that there are people who bend the law with impunity because they have gobs and gobs of money? Is it the one that lashes out at the injustice of wasted food when it is very clear that if the world cared more, hunger could be appeased by perhaps as much as 50%? Is it the one that gets enraged at the uncaring "professionals" who run our schools so incompetently that even high school graduates have to take remedial reading classes before going to college? Is it the one that gets frustrated into rage when the shambles of our medical care system lets hundreds of thousand people die every year because they can't afford to get the care that they need? I ask again, what conscience are we left with when it comes time to vote?

Do we vote for the Evangelical Christian who will support Israel at any cost? Do we vote for the Catholic who thinks that open borders are the only way to live? What about voting for the Republican who decides that every living person in the United States should have an identification card? Then there's the Democrat who will go all out to assure that there will be a constitutional amendment making way for same-sex marriage? What about the Baptist who is kicking and scratching every day of his life to preserve the electrification subsidies of his section of the country although there isn't a single nano-watt more needed there? Oh, I nearly forgot, what about the person who is more in favor of growing more corn for fuel than for supplying the food chain? Will your conscience allow you to vote for the candidate who will vow to pass legislation to euthanize all abandoned pet animals? Yes, what conscience are we left with when it comes time to vote?

We are only left with the conscience that we allow God to enlighten for us. Life is too complex for us to do it on our own. The activist will fight on and vote one way; the pacifist will vote another way; the monk will see things differently; the mother will have her conscience and the father his. The only way to make this a little more understandable is to remember that God is the equalizer. We have the duty to study, research and learn about as much as we can. The bottom line is what we learn from God by living close to Him. Even the best candidate cannot know everything. Politics is too big and too complex. Only God can enlighten us, both, politician and plain citizen alike. Only a close relationship with God can bring the peace that we pray for. It is paradoxical, but the more we abandon of ourselves to God, the more successful we become in enlightening our conscience concerning the morality to be practiced on the public stage. In and through God we find light and strength. Is that the conscience we will have whenit comes time to vote?

So, when you hear or read this again, "Vote Your Conscience", hope and pray that what you have in your heart is God, and what you have is His finger hitting the screen to the right choice. It is impossible to be a one issue citizen. It is impossible to be a one issue candidate. All we can hope to be is one with the Truth, the Truth who lives in us. That is the kind of unity that can bring peace to the nation and to the world.

Now, I know it is not safe to talk politics in front of strangers, but I did anyway. Anyone who can be that brave (or that foolhardy) won't have anyone crying at his funeral. Right?

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Every week at we have a Burning Question for all of you readers. We do go to some lengths to make these questions relevant to the meaning of what it is to be a real disciple of Jesus Christ. This week, we were the ones who got the Burning Question, not in the public forum, but in the form of a personal e-mail to the publisher. We therefore offer you, the readers of, the considered opinion of our publisher on the topic, "To Vote or NOT to Vote."

Some of you may remember that some months ago during the primary season there were a lot of comments about whether or not Catholics could vote for a "pro-choice" candidate. Do you remember that discussion? There was even some space dedicated to it here. The topic comes up again, briefly in the following exchange, but it doesn't swallow the discussion.

As the theology editor for this publication I am comfortable with the ideas thrown before you in this presentation by the publisher. If it means anything to the publisher's friend, I have to say that I am in accord with the spiritual position of Mr. Arida on this topic.

All of you, Edgar included, must feel free to make your comments about this question. We ask you to keep them objective and to make them polite.

So, let's follow this opinion about voting that was stated in response to a position that was, in paraphrase, I can't find a candidate who holds my moral views, so I am not going to vote. Were I to vote, should I vote against candidates instead of abstaining?

My Election Advice to a Friend - round 1


I would like to share with you an email I sent in response to a question by a friend.

Wally Arida


Not voting is always a choice you can make over making the wrong vote. So a revenge-vote for or against any candidate is never a good thing. If you can't make up your mind, sit this one out.
That being said, let me point out that elections are not all about politics and economics. It's also about what you believe your heart tells you about our God. For once, consider making this election about your Christian faith and which candidate you feel can best exemplify what we as Catholics really stand for. For once, look at this election from the point of view of our faith. Life is not the only God issue during these elections but it is the key issue – respect of Life from conception to death. Ask yourself which candidate will best bring forward the Kingdom of God in our United States for the next four years. This will change the way you will look upon this election. For in the end, what is good for the Lord is good for His people.

As you ponder this, don't ask yourself what Jesus would do. Ask yourself, what Jesus would want you to do. Try to come to grips with yourself with this with your conscience as your guide and see how this whole election process can take on a whole new perspective. I encourage you to cast your vote. For once, let's put our trust in the Lord regarding this one.

I hope this helps.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Publisher & Editor in chief

Editor's Comment
It is evident here that the one driving issue was abortion. Respect for life. OK, as the theology editor, I buy the concept that this is a fundamental Catholic moral issue. After all, God spared Cain's life didn't He? But there is more to it than that. In the United States we think nothing of having a capital punishment law in our culture. We think nothing of holding people captive even without any definitive proof that they have committed a crime. We think nothing of sending work off-shore so that we can get the results at a lower price at the cost of the welfare of our very own community. We think nothing of permitting automotive companies to enslave us to an oil-based fleet of vehicles rather than to force them to apply technologies that have been available for years to spare us from the monopoly of oil. We think nothing of a government that passes laws and then does not expend any effort in the enforcement of them. Talk about "Cafeteria Catholics"...we are in a country supposedly founded on the "rule of law" yet we vote people into office who scoff at the very concept. We think nothing of having the prescription drug companies lobby our legislators into enacting laws that are detrimental to our ever being able to institute a universal health care system. Yes, we are a "Cafeteria law enforcement country".

For those of you who think that this is new. Please consider this:
The prophet Amos who preached 800 years before the coming of Jesus decried the government's treatment of prisoners. What was happening? The prisoners were being released
into slavery to third person countries (The common allies of the Israelites against the enemy defeated by the Israelites.) Is there a relationship there between us and the the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay? How about the prophet Jeremiah who raled at the practice of Child sacrifice in the Valley of Hinnom at the foot of Mount Moriah, the high point of Jerusalem? There is never a single issue election. There are many more examples in the Bible, but I won't take up the publisher's space! We Catholics have to vote according to our conscience, formed as it is by the revelation of the Lord Our God given to us through the pronouncements of Sacred Scripture and of our Holy Mother the Church.

Now, let us look at round 2

From Edgar,

If you base your vote on what your conscience tells you, works only in theory, try to listen to a democrat or a republican candidate will flip flop, depends on the polls, for example, abortion. Democrats tend to favor abortion, but on the other hand consider also the carnage created by war, and the lies that railroad us to what we have now, a job well done..morally, what will you consider less evil? It just boils down to; we need more oil to fuel our SUV's and blame the whole world for everything that ails us..


Our faith and belief in God and what is right is not - as you put it – theoretical. It is a way of life, a choice we make. Our Christian lives and the way we live them are never perfect, they never were, they never will be. No one among us is perfect. But we try – all of us do – and we try hard. Because in the end we are judged – and this, my friend, is not theoretical - on how we live our lives according to His will. Have faith, Edgar. God will make all things right in the end. He always does. All He asks is we put our trust in His will.

Think this election over clearly and consciously. Look into your heart and really talk to Jesus. Ask him what he wants you to do. (Remember it’s not what Jesus would do but what you think Jesus would want YOU to do.) Put your Catholic faith to heart and believe that His will is the right thing for all of us.

This conversation will be between Him and you; no one else will be involved. Our whole life boils down to love for God and love for others. It boils down to love and respect for Life as God gave it. Your relationship with Jesus has always been between Him and you. And this election is no different. God’s plan for mankind and the salvation of the world was never a theoretical hypothesis. He gave all of us – you and I included – the free choice to do His will. Or we can choose not to. It is our individual choice.

Please don’t think of this as a guilt trip, Edgar. No one will know how you voted or who you voted for or for what reasons. It’s between you and Him. All I’m offering you is a different way of looking at this coming election. When the choices and issues are muddled, it’s always a good think to go back to the constant – God and his infinite love for each person, His infinite love for Life. How you discuss that with Him is between Him and you. It’s what praying is all about.

Re-think the issues from this new perspective. It could give you the answer you’re looking for. Who knows? You just might discover answers that will go way beyond this simple matter of elections at hand.

Kindest regards, my friend. God bless you and your family

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Publisher & Editor in chief
Learn it. Live it. Share it."

That is the opinion of our publisher. We leave it to you to think about it. Upon leaving you, we remind you of this: if you vote your conscience, you will be able to defend yourself at the "city gates" (a book of psalms expression). If you play games with your conscience, you will always be wondering where the Truth can be found. So go out and vote and be forever at peace with your own seriously considered decision.

That is my final say about this. All that I can say now is, if you vote, and vote your conscience with strong, none negotiable conviction, this will comfort you to the point where you will not have the least little inclination to cry at my funeral.

Friday, August 1, 2008


The smiling widow shown here welcoming the earthly remains of her husband in the narthex of the church before the beginning of the liturgy is none other than the long time wife of Bob Brancamp whose story is the post preceding this one. This was not a "Dies Irae" (day of wrath) funeral. This was not an "O mors inevitabilis, mors amara, mors crudelis" (O inevitable death, bitter death, cruel death) kind of funeral. This was a spiritual event at the highest plane. I did not have to ask the widow to smile, she was already smiling. She is sure that her beloved is looking down upon her. She is sure that God has assigned her to his care. She, and the community of faithful participating in the rite of committing the soul of the beloved deceased to God, just know that Bob is in heaven. We just know that Bob has been born into the presence of God. Just as a person is escorted into the community ocupying the nave for rebirth by Baptism, so was Bob escorted into the church to celebrate his birth into heaven.
The entire environment told the same story. From the white drape enveloping the casket, the white suit worn by Elvira, the saintly widow, white vestments on the eight priests who concelebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the signing of "Allelluia" and the lilting tones of the carefully chosen music, all was hope and thanksgiving. The sharing of the peace was a true blessing of one to the other and all eight of the priests made their way to Elvira's pew to hug her and bless her and the rest of her family. We went to the communion stations to partake of the sacrificed body of Christ, knowing that He was also carrying Bob with Him.

After the Mass and the final blessing of the remains, we heard the eulogy of Elvira, delivered by a beloved chosen emmissary. It is reproduced here, with Elvira's permission.

"Bob is a wonderful husband. In our 35 years and 8 months of marriage, he probably got angry only three or four times. He is a very patient person. He is always there for me whenever I need something. During our married life together he was very caring, especially when I had to go into four types of surgery. We did not have all the luxuries in life, but we were able to manage for we both worked and helped each other. He would always say 'Thank you' in every little thing you would do for him. I gave him his haircult since we got married in 1972, and he would always say, 'I feel 10 pounds lighter' after the haircut.
"We have our senior moments and who doesn't when you get to be a senior. We both love to go bowling, play bingo, visit different casinos, play the penny machines, and when he passed out, it happened in a casino, although I was not beside him or near him when it happened.
"On behalf of Bob's family and I, I would like to thank you all for showing your gratitude. I will always cherish and keep all your prayers and sympathy in my heart. God has been good to us. He always directed us to the right path, and provided us with everything we need. I will love Bob forever, and we will see each other in the next life."

It is good for all of us to be able to look up and see Bob in heaven. He is a good example for us all. Yesterday was more like "Haec dies quam fecit Dominus" (This is the day the Lord has made). Yesterday we saw God in a new light because Bob showed us a side if Him that we hadn't seen before.

No, I did not cry at this funeral. Frankly, not too many of us did. Bob was that kind of guy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


"The whole lifetime of Enoch was three hundred and sixty five years. Then Enoch walked with God and he was no longer here, for God took him." (Gen. 5: 23-24)

Bob Brancamp, pictured above took God's hand this morning and is not here any more. His soul, along with "...the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment will touch them (him). (Wisdom, 3:1)
This is not the only picture that we have of Bob, but we think that this is the one that fits him best. He was always in high fettle when he was with the young people of SONshine Summer. He would arrive at the "office" 20 minutes ahead of time and stay for as long as he was needed after the final bell. Next June, we will have to put his picture on the admin table, so that happiness can come to the hearts of the children that he enjoyed so much for the four summers of SONshine Summer.
God has taken him by His side as a sacrificial offering for our labors and efforts in the Mission given to us by Jesus so that we might keep our eye on the goal and wear the laurel when our race ends. The book of Wisdom says that to the foolish they seemed to be dead but in fact they are in peace. God tried them and they proved themselves to be worthy of Himself. If God can embrace Bob, is it so bad that we can no longer give him the hugs that we gave him? He has been given the consolation for which we all live and aspire. He has proven himself to be worthy of a smooth and suffering-free transition from the difficulties of the "valley of tears" to the "Pearly Gates".
It is in the culture of human beings not say anything negative about the dead. In English we call them "the Dearly Departed." I am not (and never have been) a believer in this part of our culture. I don't expect anyone to say anything about me that would not be perceived as a true evaluation. But I have to say this, that if I hear a bad word about Bob, the speaker had better be ready. I wish I could have the smooth and gentle disposition that this holy man had. He will never be absent from my life. I will always envy him this wonderful gift of God; to be taken swiftly for the long, leisurely walk through the Garden. What better evaluation of our lives can we hope for? I stop and think that I have outlived everybody on my father's side and am fast approaching the outside limits of the longevity on the mother's side. It's got to be that God must be wondering how long it's going to take me to finally discover how sweet it really is to live in his love so that he feels that I have finally "made it?"
Can I pray for the repose of this soul? How much more repose can I pray for when it comes to Bob Brancamp? He's got it all wrapped up. Like Enoch, God Himself came in the middle of a moonless night and brought him to the light of the Eternal Kingdom. I pray for all those who were touched by the glowing light of Bob's life so that they, and I, can thank God for making Himself present to us in Bob's life.
Bob has died; Bob lives on. Let's all ask Bob to inspire us as to how he did and made it look so easy. May God turn the human suffering that comes to us as a consequence of such a sudden loss into atonement for the sins that we still have to cleanse from our lives so make us ready for His Kingdom. We thank God for giving us the light of Bob's life.
Even though I can't claim to be nearly as holy as Bob Brancamp, I still remind you that crying at my funeral is not allowed.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


This is not a eulogy about Tim Russert. I did not know him personally, so I do not come here to eulogize him. I come here as a person who makes comments about Catholic life for the Internet Catholic Life Style Magazine, "".
Tim died suddenly, at work, on Friday, June 13, 2008. He was the moderator of the television show, "Meet the Press" for more than 20 years. It appears in Sunday morning, so many of us never get to see it. I, for one, used to "catch it" occasionally in replay later in the evening. It was always interesting, but not always worth my staying up late after a busy Sunday of RCIA and other Church oriented efforts.
The reason why I am taking some time to write this is because it is rather uncommon, if not rare, to see a public person such as this referred to as "Tim Russert, a devout Catholic" time after time by those making comments about his life. So many practitioners of journalism came before the television screen and said something like, "Tim and I were Irish Catholics..." I am writing this because this is one of those times when Catholics get their moment on the sun. The person who has just died has shown us what it means to be a "devout" Catholic. The virtuous and righteous life that this man led was an example of holiness for all those around him and it did have an impact. It was so powerful that even they who would not normally confess their faith in public now do so with pride. This is evagelization in the prophetic mode. We too must go forth and do the same.
I leave you with a quote from one Irish Catholic, ex-Senator Patrick Moynihan to Tim Russert when Russert had just begun working for Moynihan, "Don't be impressed about their education. What they know, you can learn. What you know they can't learn." Let's keep that in mind as we live our lives in the world.
I have been following the on-going covereage about Tim's untimely death and I have to confess that I have never before heard public people testify to their personal faith to the extent that I have experienced over the last two days. Reporters have testified to their Judaism, Anglicanism, Catholicism, Lutheranism and said that Tim's witness to his Catholicism was an important element in teaching them the importance of religion in their own lives.

This is a person who has had and will no doubt continue to have an impact on our lives. Don't cry for him...and for sure, don't cry at my funeral.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


It was June 8, 2008 when Father Eduardo Aguirre came back to St. Christopher Parish in Moreno Valley to celebrate his first Mass. The reception was nothing less than magnificent. The Church was packed, for two Masses in a row. The plaza in front of the church was overflowing. There were some tents to accommodate the faithful who wanted to receive his first blessing. They were protected from the sun but even if there had been no tent, they still would have been there.
This is no ordinary priest to the people of St. Christopher. This is their priest. This is the priest who as a deacon for the last ten months attended to their every need, blessed their children, their homes, their cars, their rosaries and their sick, suffering and dying. He is a priest who became a priest gifted as much by the faithful as they are gifted by him. This is a priest who doesn't stand on ceremony and doesn't expect to be served hand and foot. This is a priest who blesses people with his firm and sincere embrace, the whole family at the same time, not just with a waving sigbn of the cross over their head. This is a priest who knows that in the embrace of blessing, the Grace flows both ways.
Father Aguirre was ordained a priest by Bishop Barnes on May 31 at the church of St. Paul the Apostle in Chino Hills. was present at the ordination. St. Christopher parishioners in droves were peppered around the nave. These same parishioners are so happy that "their" priest, the fruit of their prayers and their help is now able to perform to the fullest extent of the sacrament that he chased for so long. Father Aguirre was a deacon for seven years before being ordained to the priesthood. He served archbishop Mahony for many of those years. Then, God solved his problem, he introduced him to Bishop Barnes. Bishop Barnes asked Father Romeo Seleccion, MS, pastor of St. Christopher to form an internship committee to work with the deacon. So it was done. The committee was sincere and honest in its calling and the deacon was docile and responsive. In the end, it was easy to recommend that Eduardo Aguirre be ordained to the priesthood.
There are those at St. Christopher who are convinced that this experience has been God planting the seed of priestly vocations in this parish. The one thing that has not happened in the parish yet is that one of its children be ordained to the priesthood. After more than fifty years, there are now some from the parish who are in seminary preparing for the day of priesthood. One is getting very close. A couple more are two or three years away and a couple are just beginning. The response to the success of Father Aguirre, as it relates to the community of St. Christopher is, in the mind of some, the furrow which will accept and nurture the seed of more priestly vocations in the parish in the years to come.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


You knew that it had to come. The Protestants would get their placards greased up and stapled onto stakes to express their hatred for the Pope. Where do these "Christians" come from? Well, there's the "former" priest who now is speaking on television and "U-Tube" and other places. 20 years a priest he was. If he knew any better, and if he was able to run to his "Sola Scriptura" environment, he would somehow get the message that he is still a priest. He might even discover that we are all priests. So why, all of a sudden is he famous? Is it because he can bill himself as a "former" priest? By the way, there is a former nun, too.

Then, of course there are the those who hate the Catholic "System" of running after documents that prove that they have received the sacraments. Ah, yes, the sacraments, those points of idolatry that God warned us against. We know why they are idolatrous because they take away the time that is so precious for baseball, football, soccer, hockey, debate team, drum and bugle, etc.
Of course we can't forget that all religions are about the same anyway. After all, we pray to the same God. Catholics just don't get it. Lutherans get abortions; Anglicans have female priests and homosexual bishops with live-in partners; many Catholic priests are homosexuals, so what's the big deal?

What's the Pope doing here telling us that he has something to tell us that sits on the bottom line of virtue?

I have something to tell you. I don't care whether or not you like it.
I too am a priest. Ordained a missionary on December 19, 1965 by Monsignor Cunial, Ordinary of Rome. I am still a priest. I am a priest forever according to the order of Melkisedek.
I am now a layman, "reduced" to the "order of laity" by decree of the Holy See...In Latin, a language that I still understand.
I am one of thousands of priests, reduced to the order of laity who are still dedicated to the Mother that we still love without measure, The Bride of Christ, Our Church. About one month ago, the Italian newspaper, "Corriere della Sera" (Evening News), semi official organ of the Vatican created a long article showering the laicized priests of the world with blessings and gratitude.

There are thousands of us who are standing by our pastors, zealously providing Bible Studies, Adult Faith Formation Classes, Liturgy training, parish administration, electronic evagelization and many other things. We do not make it on to ANTI-CATHOLIC talking-heads television programs, we're too busy making sure that you have better connections with God on Sunday and through the week.

You can go back to the article I wrote about the impact that the Pope has on the world. Don't you remember the funeral of JP II ? Don't you remember the report of the election of Josef Ratzinger and the pictures of him saying that he was taking the name, "Benedict"? Can't you bring yourself to wonder how the Pope can cause the miracle of commercial television eliminating their ads for continuous coverage? Doesn't it make you wonder how the president of the U.S. can greet the Pope into our country with a gracious, "Welcome, Holy Father."? Doesn't it make you wonder why people of all religious traditions and groups can gather to feel the spiritual emanations from a frail, but tough, human being? Doesn't it make you wonder why these "former" priests can turn into agents of revolution against their mother church? Doesn't it make you wonder how these agents of negativity can be so insensitive to the spiritual wave while so many others of all bands on the spectrum are feeling it?

I dare to say that we all all look to Pope Benedict XVI for the truth that supports our morality. EVERYONE knows that Benedict XVI will tell the truth. Rock-bottom, non-negotiable truth. No abortion; no stem-cell research; no homosexual marriage; no death penalty; no torture; no whimsical wars; wider borders; better wages and better, much better health care. You don't have to be Catholic to listen to this, and you don't have to be Catholic to obey it. It all comes from God and God is for us all...after all, He created us all.

And the Bishop of Rome is the Bishop of us all. He is the Prophet of our age.


Tell this to that "former" priest because you heard it from me, an actual layman, proud member of the order of the laity. I love Benedict XVI. He won't let you cry at my funeral.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Proud to be Catholic. That's right. Whenever the world needs a little shaking up, the country that takes up less ground than most municipalities in the world has the tools. Whenever the white robed leader of that Church/State steps out onto the world stage, God is telling us that it's spiritual seismic time.

That has perhaps not been truer than it is these days. The leader of the Catholic Church wields his portfolio with deft strokes of political acumen and enlightening spiritual insight. He speaks with authority not only to Catholics but to all peoples of the world. Take him or leave him, Benedict XVI is going to make you think. Take him or leave him, you won't forget what he told you. Like it or not, if he looks at you, you won't forget that either. Not only is he a powerful intellect, he is a spiritual power. He is also a true gentleman. He is courtly and polite. He is firm because he is sure of himself, intellectually and emotionally. He is fearless and daunting because of it. Yes, world, when your Pope moves, the air swirls all over the entire planet.

It is impressive to see the attention that this sacrament of God's presence on earth can generate from all stripes of human beings. It is impressive to see that the way the Pope moves over the earth is reminiscent of the mental images that are evoked in our minds when we read the derring do of Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses and so many other bigger than life Biblical characters. It is impressive to see that the world can bow to this living Messenger of the Word. It is always moving to see how the world comes together at a Pope's funeral. It is many times more moving to witness the swirl of leaves and the bending of the oaks of power as this living Apostle carves his path through the morass human behavior. We see it as the parting of the inimical waters so that the Spirit can move freely and bless them so that when the flood comes crashing down after His passing, it will wash and fertilize rather then drown and swamp. Yes, for just a little while, the Potomac and the Hudson will taste just like the Tiber. Thank you God for giving us that blessing.

Thank you, God for sharing your presence with us in such a graphic way. There are few indeed who can bring the corporate media giants to operate without commercial breaks. You can. You do. Alive or dead.

Gordon Brown sure picked a great time to come to Washington, didn't he?

I couldn't keep myself from making that remark. Did I just give you all a chance to cry at my funeral?

Sunday, April 13, 2008


As the saying goes, "If I had a nickel for every time I heard that complaint, I'd be drinking Pernod and Champagne on the Riviera." Read on to see where my nickels have gone.

In a parish that shall remain nameless, some three or four weeks ago, on Easter Sunday a survey was conducted to welcome those who don't come often and to find out what could be done to give them more satisfaction as members of the parish. In a parish of some 15,000 members (conservative estimate), one response among others came back with the comment, "would like
to learn more about the Catholic Faith." Since the email address of the parishioners (a couple) was on the return card, it was decided to send this couple a personal response. Since is privy to the response, and since we are keeping
this anonymous, here is the response.

I got your card on my desk in late March. I called your number but had no luck getting through to you. Now I read the card a little more closely and realize that you have an Email address.
I notice that you checked the box that says, "I would like to learn more about the Catholic Faith." My wise crack answer to that is, "Don't we all!".
My serious answer is this. St. Christopher has many opportunities for people to gather a deeper intellectual and spiritual appreciation for the Catholic Faith, especially geared to adults. Here are some of them, in English and in Spanish.

Every Sunday at 11:00 AM RCIA Inquirers class 1 hour. Some explanation is required for you to get a better idea of what happens there.
Every Sunday at 1:30 PM RICA Inquirers Class in Spanish. Same comment.
Every Tuesday at 9:30 AM Systematic Bible study in English
Every Tuesday at 7:30 PM Systematic Bible study in English
Every Wednesday at 9:30 AM Systematic Bible study in English.
Every Thursday at 10:00 AM Systematic Bible study in Spanish

Every Monday at 7:00 PM there is a session with the Jovenes Para Cristo group. They are "Jovenes" because they are not yet as old as I am. This is a lively group where the Spanish Language dominates.
Also every Monday at 7:00 PM, and also in Spanish, there is a session of the "Caminando con Cristo" group.

Every year, beginning mid August there is a seven session curriculum that is offered to the parents of the children who are going to attend the Faith formation Sessions. Every one is invited to participate in these classes. Just as with all other educational opportunities, this event is advertised and published on a weekly basis in the parish bulletin.
Every year there is also a four month curriculum for those adults who have yet to be confirmed. These classes take place on Wednesday evening from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM from late January to Mid May. They, just like every other presentation of our faith, are open to everyone and they are announced in the parish bulletin.

Finally, there is a weekly online Catholic Magazine called This magazine is emailed to the subscribers every Friday AM while we are tucked away in our beds, re-constructing ourselves for the day to come. It is a Catholic Life-Style magazine which uses the Sunday Bible readings as its foundation for the majority of the articles. Please click here and you will be able to peruse the latest edition of the magazine which was sent by email just recently.

Besides what we have noted above, please note that there are other annual events that I did not name, like the final week of January Adult Faith formation Consortium (English and Spanish) and the Bible Camp for children, (English) to which adults are also invited, which happens during the last full week of June every year.

I invite you to feel free to give me a telephone call at your convenience. It's a cell phone, so don't be shy. If I don't answer, it's because I am being polite to someone or some event. I will call you back. Thank you for having the patience to read such a lengthy letter.
It is the hope and the prayer of the parish that everyone receive the spiritual and intellectual nourishment required to be a holy disciple of Jesus.

That's the answer that was sent to the respondents. Now here is my add-on to the answer.

Notice that all of the above is really impressive. There is a lot of opportunity for adults there. I would be willing to gamble that the children of this parish perhaps swallow about 80 or 90 per cent of the educational resources of the parochial operation with perhaps more than 100 volunteers. I would like to point out that all of the above is directed at passive behavior. We have this class, you come, listen and go home and we will have fulfilled your wish to teach you more about our Catholic faith. I know that I will get into trouble for this, but I have to say that we have to exercise some active behavior when we seem to know more about our Catholic Faith. We have to give Jesus some of our time in on-the-job-training. This is the kind of "multi-media" learning that contributes to making us stronger and more convinced disciples. Yes, we have to dedicate some time as volunteers. Sometimes we serve as assistants so that the practices that are needed will seep into the depths of our soul. The nice part about Church work/learning is that it is portable. The Apostles started in Israel and had success all over the world. They learned part of what they did in he Bible, but they learned a lot from following Jesus around too.

Yes, dear Catholic, I enjoin you to stop asking to be fed and start practicing how it feels to be an active disciple.

Yikes, I can see the veins standing up in your neck. You are thinking that some old man like I am can't possibly be relating to the reality in which you live. You know what? I agree. It is up to you to decide at what level you are going to introduce yourself into the working dicipleship of Jesus Christ. You have to decide whether 40 hours per year is doable or not. You have to
decide whether 5 hours per week is possible. It is your life. It is your soul. It is your relationship with Jesus. It is your call to answer the dictate of Jesus, "Go for and baptize all nations, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." When we answer that call, we learn, we grow and we progress, those around us do too. "Classes" are good, practice is better.

You follow Jesus like He wants us to, and you will not cry at my funeral and you will understand why others will not cry at yours. They will know where you are, and what's to cry about that?

Monday, March 24, 2008


Last week ran a top story that was entitled, "Has the Notion of Sin Been Lost?" I looled at that headline and said to myself, "Sure, and why not? It should be lost, forever, and replaced with the notion of virtue." Sadly, both of these notions are on the endangered list. Sure we are surrounded by people who don't think that pre-marital sex is sinful; sure we are Surrounded by people who think that masturbation is not sinful; sure we are surrounded by people who think that euthanasia is not sinful and for sure we surrounded by people who think that lying is not sinful.

My attitude? So what? We are also surrounded by people who call in sick 20 days a year while they are perfectly healthy; we are surrounded by people who promise to get the job done by tomorrow, but they don't tell us tomorrow of which year; we are surrounded by people who are perpetually late for appointments; we are surrounded by people who come to church every
Sunday but who insult their fellow Christians in the parking lot; we are surrounded by people who say that they are Catholic but who don't educate their children in the faith, don't get them baptized and then make up all kinds of excuses for their negligence; we are surrounded by people who don't take care of their health because it takes too much time; we are surrounded by
volunteers who promise you one thing but then are not reliable enough to get it done. Do I need to continue? No, you get the point. We live in a world that not only is losing its sense of wrong, but its sense of right as well. The world we live in has no desire to replace the bad with the good. We live in a world that has no desire to understand that strong good habits (virtues in religioius speak) can actually keep us free from bad habits (vices, in religious speak). We live in a world that doesn't want to understand that prayer is better than sit-com TV. We live in a world where the leaders themselves do not repect the straight-talk truth. We live in a world where Catholic leaders prefer to negotiate the bottom line truth in order to accommodate Protestant friends. We live in a world where even Protestants try to cover up their core values by calling
themselves Christians. We live in a world where Muslims sell us the notion that Islam is a religion of peace and understanding while they murder Catholic bishops, priests and deacons because they refuse to stop practicing their Catholic religion in public.

It's OK to take polls and write articles about the decline in the notion of sin. Let's take a poll and write an article about why it is that the inhabitants of this planet have declined to the point where the reality of high expectations and the desire to achieve perfection have declined to the point where school teachers and even university professors feel comfortable in rewarding A+ to people. If A is the top grade, then everyone else would be less, right? Why are we diminishing the value of the A by making the top grade the oxymoronic A+? Oh, I forgot, we have to make little Johnny and little Janie feel good about getting an A even though their work doesn't really make it. It's like the teams who have losing records, you know, .390 or something like that, and still are included in the playoffs. It's like the employers who don't fire those who only report to work 200 days a year because they are "good employees". It's like giving every child in the league a certificate for good performance. It's like giving everybody a raise or a bonus, even those who are known in the board room as "Bozos".

Let me state this bluntly: This attitude of ours as a civilization is as deleterious to our existence and yes, to your eternal salvation as sin, the way we understand it, or think we understand it, will be. I hear it every day, "Jesus was kind; Jesus was merciful; Jesus was understanding." Yeah, OK. but go read Matthew 25 and get to the bottom line: Those of you who don't measure up are never going to have to worry about your heating bill again, for all eternity. You think that this is tough, what about this, "'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth." (Revelation, chapter 3, verse 16)

I therefore urge you, Be Good! Be Virtuous! Stay Close to God! Stay Close to the Truth and don't negotiate it with anyone, not even yourself. I'm not afraid to tell you, negotiating the truth to water it down is the great sin of this century. We all have to learn to strive for perfection because God Himself orders us to do so. We are reminded of this by the Second Council of the Vatican. Our Christian life is a constant striving for improvement. We have to remember, an attitude of "it's good enough" is not going to get the job done over the long haul. Let's help one another to get it done and there will be not excuse, absolutely none, for us to cry at one another's funeral. Especially not mine!

If you do cry at my funeral, I will tell St. Peter on you.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


At every stage of the change of liturgical seasons I go back to my mother's missal from 1942 to see what the Church had to say about the new season. I was reading the introduction to the season of Easter this morning and it struck me that what the Benedictine Monks who put out this missal wrote there as an instruction is as true today as it was yesterday. We may have a
different reaction to the lesson, but the foundation remains the same.

At this point of our history as Catholics, when so much is made of the "old and reverential ways of Mother Church", I decided to translate the short paragraph entitled "Dogmatic Expose: Easter" for your reflection.

"The Church, who, each year renews the memory of the significant events of the life of the Savior through the liturgy so that we can take part in them, celebrates the anniversary of Christ's victory over death at the time of Easter. It is, in the words of the great homilist, Bossuet, 'the core event of all of history. It is towards this event that all history converges in the life and death of Christ. It is the culminating point of the life of the Church in its liturgy.'

"The resurrection of the Savior is the most glorious event of his existence. It is the most explosive proof of His divinity and serves as the foundation of our faith. By right, we have resurrected with Christ. But in fact the force of this mystery operates in and through the lives of the faithful, and especially during the festivities of Easter so that we can pass from sin to grace here and now, and later be born into eternal glory from grace.

"At the Incarnation it is the soul of Jesus that was being born into the divine life through the experience of the beatific vision. At Easter, it is His body which now enters into the joy of the glory of God.

"The Easter Season is an image of heaven, a radiant image of the eternal Easter which is the goal of our entire existence."

(Missel Vesperal-Romain; Dom Gaspar LeFebvre, Benedictin de l'Abbaye de St. Andre, Bruges, Belgique)
(Roman Missal - Vesperal: Dom Gaspar LeFebvre, Benedictine of St. Andrew's Abbey, Bruges, Belgium) Copyright, 1942 My translation from the French

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Holy Week with Jesus

We share with you, our readers, the Holy Week spiritual journey of one who walked the streets of Jerusalem during Holy Week less than one full year ago. Please come back to this daily and be a part of "The Holy Week experience Live from the Holy Land."

If you have ever had a strong experience, you know that every time you talk about it you say, "I remember it like it was yesterday." Eleven months ago I made a daily report back from the Holy week celebration in Jerusalem. It is just like yesterday. I am going to share it all with you again because God is truly present in these experiences. You can follow me through the entire experience by clicking here. If you have the desire to visit the Holy Land and want some information about our September Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, you may click here.



Up and at 'em! 9;00 AM, we fill a bus and leave for a place about 7 miles away that is reputed to be the place near Bethany the Jesus would have broken bread with the disciples from Emmaus. It is here that the Crusaders built a church to commemorate the event of the meeting and the travelling of Jesus with the two disciples. The story comes to us from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 24, verses 13 to 35.

The church is massive and it is beautiful in its own way. Some time in the distant past the property was given to some French Benedictine monks who occupy it and maintain it to his day. The monastery property is also occupied by a community of Benedictine nuns. Our director took us there to give us a sense of history about the place and also to allow us to appreciate a very high quality Palm Sunday liturgy. The liturgy was conducted in Latin and in French.

The music was mostly Plain Chant (Gregorian Chant) but there was some modern music as well. It was all "a cappella" since it was the beginning of Holy Week, the organ was muted. There were very few lay people there, mostly French people living in the Jerusalem area. The monks are not that numerous, so the liturgy was very intimate and very well done.

Those of you who are familiar with my blog know that I am not a fan of Latin in the liturgy when lay people are in attendance. I think that Latin Liturgy should be reserved for those who understand Latin. Latin in a monastery is understandable because the inhabitants of the monastery understand Latin. Since the monastery is their territory, they have Mass in the language of their territory. (You, dear reader are hereby informed that I understand Latin) To that last nasty remark I have to add that I also understand French fluently. In sum, the liturgy, outside of the chant was conducted in French for the sake of the audience.

My story is this. During the chanting of the Passion Story at the Gospel time (in French) I was very engrossed by the beauty of my mother tongue as the foundation for the chanted gospel story. When it came time for the episode concerning Peter's denial of Jesus, I was no longer hearing the cantor. I was listening to my maternal grandfather telling me the story, just as he so often did.

I got through the first two denials in good shape. I was starting to tremble a bit during the third one. I lost it completely when my grandfather said, "and immediately after Peter said that, the cock crowed." I'm full of goose bumps now, remembering the moment. Jesus hammered me with that one. The son of David got to me there, in David's town, by letting my grandfather tell me the story in my own mother tongue. That's one thing about God, he doesn't play fair. You can ask anyone, Noah, Jonah, Amos, Moses, Paul, anyone. God always gets His way. I know that He was letting me know that` this morning. Why is it taking me so long to learn?


Back to the Institute for a quick lunch and back out at 1:30 PM to join the procession from Bethany/Betphage to Jerusalem along the route that Jesus took on His triumphal trek into the City just before His condemnation. It was a real liturgy. Why, even the police and the military were there to see to it that the crowd didn't get unruly. Just like it says in the Bible, "Lord, reprimand your disciples. They're getting out of hand."

But you know what? We were "truly, ruly". We were loud too. Flashy too. International too. French, Italian, Nigerian, German, Polish, Spanish, USA, Croatian, Russian, Israeli Christians, priests, sisters, monks, Isabel and I. Three kilometers, up hills, down hills, up steps, down steps, across a main road that was closed even though it is a workday in Israel. But for one day, the Christians had them outnumbered. This was the day of King David's blood line. It seems that "they" know better than to mess with Him. Along the way there were some things that were notable. As usual, the Polish were singing most of the way. When they would sing an internationally famous hymn, we would all join in. Well, not all, after all the line was at least 1 and one-half kilometers long.

Several thousand people. All of them at peace. All of them wondering why the military was there. All of them pushing, shoving, shrugging, stepping, slipping, sliding and squeezing to get closer to the front of the line for the final blessing by the patriarch of Jerusalem in the garden of St. Anne's Church. If Jesus had shown up in person today, He would have felt right at home. We were ready. We were behaving just as everyone
else did in His time. We were having fun. The Poles were doing the praying, so the rest of us could do the celebrating.

On a final note. There was never any doubt that we were in Jerusalem today. But there is one powerful memory that will never leave me. The cadenced chant of the crowd that would break through and continue for about 15 or 20 minutes at a time during this 2 hour pilgrimage...Yup, you guessed it, "JERUSALEM! JERUSALEM! JERUSALEM!"


I have a friend whose elder brother is a Lutheran Pastor. He has had large communities in Illinois and in the South. As far as I can tell, he is a holy person. I am quite friendly with his brother and I know that the family has its foundations set firmly on Christian morality. This story may or may not be about Pastor W..., but it could be.

This came to me from Woody, Pastor W...'s brother, my immediate friend. My personal witness appears below the story. You are all invited to share your comments with our community.

Several years ago, a preacher from out-of-state accepted a call to a church in Houston, Texas. Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, 'You'd better give the quarter back. It would bewrong to keep it.' Then he thought, 'Oh, forget it, it's only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a gift from God and keep quiet.' When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, 'Here, you gave me too much change.'
The driver, with a smile, replied, 'Aren't you the new preacher in town? I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I'll see you at church on Sunday. 'When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, 'Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter. 'Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. This is a really scary example of how much people watch us as Christians and will put us to the test! Always be on guard -- and remember -- You carry the name of Christ on your shoulders when you call yourself 'Christian.'
Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
Thank you, George. I have seen this come true in my life. Marc and Jo-El (my sons) have remarked about how I am serious about equal exchanges at the cash register. I have also had more than one cashier tell me that I was an exception in her experience when I returned a very small amount. One time when I was a cashier at a taco place in the Bay Area of San Francisco, I short-changed a person (a regular customer) without knowing it and she did not notice it.
When I noticed it, I hoped that she would come back. When two weeks passed and she had not returned. I started to ask other regulars if anyone knew her. Finally, one person told me that she was her office mate. I asked her if she would tell the lady that I wanted to return her money. She did tell her and the customer came back. She told me how angry she was at the error because she was thinking that I had slipped one by her. Upon hearing her story, my emotions gathered in my throat. I gave her not only the change but the full amount of the
transaction. She told that it wasn't necessary, but I said that the necessity to make her totally whole came from my conscience, not from her graciousness. I told her that I thought that it was my duty to reward her for her agida.
She laughed at my choice of words (New York, Yiddish). We shook hands and parted on good terms. Whether the rewards are human, or human and spiritual, I believe that the balance of justice hangs from God's hands, so I try to maintain it good in His view, even for picayune amounts. If not for spiritual gain, sometimes those small amounts make for good stories.
When I recounted this little story to George ("Woody"), he told me this in response:
"That's a good story. My wife and I just left the Abelson's (Albertsons) Store a few minutes ago. The person in head of us forgot to take her change from the automatic change machine - it was about 46 cents. I noticed it and told the cashier and bag boy. The cashier told the bag
boy the lady had just left the store - meaning, there was time for the bag boy to run and catch her; but, the bag boy paused for a moment, took the change and put it in his pocket. ' So it is with most people. After we left the store, I told my wife, "The kid was too lazy to run after the customer and of course, he wanted the change for himself."
The three stories above are simple. They carry within them a serious challenge. is not just providing you these stories for your email "forwards".
When you get more change than is what is rightfully coming to you, do you give it back?
Do you think that it is a sin to keep it? What if you make the situation worse by doing it in front of your children; is that a worse sin?

Let's talk about this. Share your thoughts about this with your fellow readers. Believe it or not, this is a serious subject. It's not just a quarter or a half-dollar, it is about a way of life. Do you believe that?
Do YOU live as though your life is the "only Bible that some people will ever read?" Do you expect others to do the same for you?

Thursday, March 6, 2008


(I am on the left)
The other day my son asked me how I felt at my age. I said that I didn't know yet because this is the first time I've ever been this age. I asked him why he didn't ask me how I felt when I was 18 or so. I remember that quite well. After all, I've been 18 nearly four times now. Now that, I can handle. It seems that every time I am 18, I get a change of life. The first time I was 18, I came to the conclusion that I would never be able to compete in professional baseball. It was rather difficult to face that realization down, but God helped me through it.
The second time I was 18 I had another change of life. It was time to make another life-changing decision. I did it. I had the spiritual strength and the emotional drive to do it. So now I have a lovely and loving wife and two marvelously loving and generous children.
The third time I was 18 I was living in a location that was about 180 degrees away from that to which I had become accustomed. I learned a lot during that period and it was almost like I was in my 30's again. It prepared me for my my latest change of life, just before the fourth 18 year cycle.
You would not be reading me here if I had not been prepared for this. This is my "JONAH" moment. A priest friend of mine (Father Romy Seleccion, MS, weekly contributor to called my wife and me to come to Moreno Valley, California to help in his parish. We are here. I met here and it gives me the opportunity to talk about God all the time and to walk with Him, hand in hand every day at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
To all of you I say, stay 18 years old all your life and no one, NO ONE, will cry at your funeral. Isn't that what you want? God bless you all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Here we are, two days after the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress and I am trying to fight off an ear-worm that keeps asking the question, "Why San Bernardino and no one else?" For two years now I have spend the majority of my time at the Congress in the exhibit hall of the Anaheim Convention Center. This is a forest of commercial exhibit booths where the denizens of Corporate America hawk their church wares. They have everything from olive wood rosaries direct from Jerusalem (4 New Israel Shekels = $1.00) to some of the best modern Church furniture (a four-candle stylized Advent "wreath", $10K) including some of the best liturgical vestments you've ever seen. Should I mention books, medals, trinkets and rear view mirror dingle-dangles?

There are two exceptions: the space is dominated by the exhibit of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which includes an online chat facility with Cardinal Mahony himself. Then, we get back to my question, "Why San Bernardino and no one else?" You see, San Bernardino Diocese is the only other diocese that has a "booth". The bishops of San Bernardino Diocese immerse themselves in the ebb and flow of the human tide that throws itself up on the beach of their simple enclave. There they are, unprotected, in the open, standing in the aisle as the current of humanity washes by them, swirling back to form a small eddy and drop off a gracious "Hello" and get a warm handshake back. had a booth not 40 feet away from the position of Bishops Barnes and del Riego and I was able to observe the action from pretty close. I can say with no fear of error, they had never a dull moment.

They are two different people, these two. Bishop Barnes, quiet and low key. Bishop del Riego flitting about like a butterfly wearing Jack Nicholson sun glasses, "working" the crowd and giving and taking graciousness for the sake of the Lord. I observed that for three days and couldn't stop asking myself, "Where are the others?" Where is San Diego? Santa Barbara? San Jose? Fresno? San Francisco? Honolulu? After all, there are 40,000 Catholic people gathered here in one place. There is n0 surprise about the schedule. Why are the bishops staying home? I am simply asking the question. Like Marc Anthony, I must admit "non appareo ante populi ut sepulteo Caesarem, sed ut laudetur." (I am not here to bury Caesar, but to praise him.) I am here to raise a glass of cheer and grace to the two bishops of San Bernardino Diocese. I think that they "get it." They know where the people are, and they go there. Like Jesus who stood in the boat and preached to the people on the mount, these two left their ordinary tasks and brought themselves to the place where they could make a spiritual impact on the flock. "Why are they the only ones?" Like Francis of Assisi (even in nice shiny shoes and expensive "shades") they placed themselves in the center of the populace and even if all they ever said was, "Hi, there! How ya doing?", it was God preaching through them. What would it have been if there had been 20 more bishops there among their (and others) people? I never visited the San Bernqardino Diocese booth. Bishop del Riego visited the booth twice. Bishop Barnes imparted his episcopal blessing on Wally Arida, our Publisher, somewhere in the hall, I forget where. Outside of the Cardinal and a couple of bishops from the Los Angeles area (Bishop Clark being one of them), the bishops of San Bernardino, not a mainstream metropolis for sure, were there carrying on their missionary calling.

Bishops Barnes and del Riego have a lot of challenges, just as every other bishop does. The wonder of these two is that they are not afraid to engage with the faithful entrusted to them in the taming of their challenges.
It is to be hoped that their colleagues in the episcopate will follow their courageous example. I personally invite other bishops to come to join us in Los Angeles next year and the years to follow. If you do, your rewards will be so great that you won't have the slightest inclination to cry at my funeral. I know for a fact that neither Bishop Barnes nor Bishop del Riego will...