Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Yup, 50 years ago today a young man (he was young  then) and a young lady (she's still young, of course) walked up the aisle to stand in front of the altar to promise before God that they would supporrt one another on the way to heaven for as many years as He would give them on this earth.  So here they are, 50 years later,  still alive and still saying nice things about one another behind one another's back.  I know, it happened in front of me.
The young man is an interesting study in priesthood.  He spent four years in the seminary and then left.  He left the seminary but never left his vocation.  He never did get ordained and is therefore not an "ex opere, operato" priest.  But his entire life has been a continuous mission in the "ex opere, operantis" priesthhood.  He has helped more people to find God and to follow Jesus than a lot of priests who stand at the altar, preach, distribute communion and then run off to the race track, the golf course or the football game.  None of them has five children, one of who requires life-long, physical and emotional attention.  Now, that is dedication.  That is ordination of a different stripe, but one just as demanding as the one we all see every Sunday, protected from some very harsh realities of the "real world."
The young lady is a priest too.  How else would she be able to offer the sacrifice of her body, heart and soul to a large family, including her aging mother on the demanding altar of matrimonial vows?  She was blessed.  She had more practice in a large family  than her husband...she was (is still) the youngest of 12 children.  Who knows, maybe that's the secret.

As happy an occasion as a golden wedding anniversary can be, it also carries with it the cargo of all those years.  A mixed bag of good, bad and ugly.  A mixed bag of frustrations and consolations.  A mixed bag of miracles for and miracles for which they are still waiting.  One thing for sure is that the greatest miracle is the grace to still be supporting one another on the road to Christian perfection in view of the Eternal Prize.  It takes two saints to get this far.  It takes one constant miracle being accepted and practiced by them to make it happen.
Marriage is really a priesthood.  We don't do it for ourselves.  We do it for the other persons that it puts into our lives.  It is like the priesthood of Jesus Himself. We die to ourselves every single day.  After 50 years we remember a lot of happy things.  We look back and tell ourselves that it feels just like yesterday.  That's a miracle too.  Imagine finding happiness and consolation of having kept on the straight and narrow for so long?  Imagine finding happiness in an imperfect situation?  Imagine God filling souls with the ability to stick by Him, just like His Son did while shedding blood and being humiliated in public?  Now that, is a priestly sacrifice.

So I have to say in conclusion that I am proud to say that this young man and this young lady are my brother and my sister-in-law.  They are saintly examples of selfless sacrificial dedication to Our Father, His Son and His Holy Spirit on this very earth.  I am so happy for them and happy to be a part of them that it would be wrong for any of you to cry at my funeral...and theirs too.

Happy 50th to you and all who have known you for all these years.  I won't wish you 50 more.  I will wish you a hand-in-hand walk with God through the garden of life for the amount that He will give you. Then you will be blessed because when you get to the Pearly Gates you won't have to put up with the grouchy gate keeper.

Paul and Belle

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Did you ever receive something that you did not expect from a person that you honored so much that you had no way of expressing your gratitude except to try to refuse to accept the offering?  I chose this picture to celebrate Christ the King because I was attracted to the artist's interpretation of Peter's attitude.  I can't help but to relate to the artist here.  He seems to have captured a reaction of the heart with which I am familiar.  He seems to be identifying with Peter.  I know I am.  I have been in a position to be receiving gratuities from people I admire deeply and I have always felt embarassed because the gesture surpassed my expectations.  I find myself reacting like Peter.  "No you don't,Lord.  You'll never wash my feet."  
Jesus knows what's going on, so He says, "Yes, I will.  If I don't and I follow your wishes, you will not be a part of Me when it really counts."  I've had a dear person tell me once, "Just keep quiet and say 'Thanks' and enjoy it."  Did you ever notice how difficult that is? 
Jesus knew that.  He knew that there is a mysterious source of power and authority in true service.  He knew that this gesture was sure to be a seal of the Covenant.  He knew that the feet that he was washing were being consecrated to His Mission.  These very feet were going to carry the WORD to all of creation.  He knew that if His  beloved apostles remembered this gesture, they would never forget what He taught them and what He commanded them to do.  Through this gesture His Kingship was sealed in their hearts.  I think that all the stories and ruminations that I have heard about Peter's reaction through the years have missed this point.  
Elsewhere in this blog I have meditated on the Kingship of Service.  "Servant Kings".
There, I focused on the action of Jesus.  I focused on the towel.  Now, I'm focused here:  

(Isaiah 52:7) -"How Beautiful on the Mountain are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, Your God Reigns."
True, I am being swayed by the Gospel of Luke.  The wonderful stories that Luke tells about Jesus as He walks His way around the beautiful country where He lived.  His apostles knew that they were being shown the value of service and the value of carrying the Word to the World.  Yes, they still had some to learn, but once it blossomed, they went out and did it.  This Kingship of His took hold of their hearts and souls and they went out in the company of the Holy Spirit and made it happen.

This is the Covenant that we live.  The New and Everlasting Covenant that makes us who we are.  Let's not fight it.  Let's say "Thank You, Lord" and make it happen.  Jesus shows us that it is not that complicated.  I mean, all it takes is a towel, a willingness to fetch water and love people so deeply that we conquer them for Jesus.  We go through so much and we make things so complicated for ourselves.  We are like Moses.  We offer up a ton of excuses why we can't do what God asks of us when all He really wants is for us to be vote with our feet, so to speak. Walk toward Him;  walk side by side with Him;  show off that we are walking with the King;  no crowns allowed, just towels and a pitcher of water and a good attitude.  
Let's remember, we have been washed in the waters of Baptism.  We have to vote with our feet for God.  If we do that as true disciples we will be just like my man Enoch, "...Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him." (Genesis, 5; 24).  Then we will not cry at anyone's funeral, especially not mine.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Part 3 of my response to "Pope Benedict to Catholics: Kneel For Communion."
As I promised, here is part 3 of my response to the email sent around by a St. Christopher parish staffer.

"The man who learns to believe learns also to kneel..." (Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy)  This is an especially significant statement because it brings us back deep into the Hebrew Bible.  
"Solomon then took his place before the altar of the LORD in the presence of the whole community of Israel and stretched forth his hands. 13 He had made a bronze platform five cubits long, five cubits wide, and three cubits high, which he had placed in the middle of the courtyard. Having ascended it, Solomon knelt in the presence of the whole of Israel and stretched forth his hands toward heaven." (2 Chronicles, 6:12-13)  The context here is very important.  Notice that it is the king who is kneeling and praying and the People of God are standing, personal witnesses to the proclamation of the king's prayer to God.  In the context, this takes place at the dedication of the newly complete Temple.  I strongly suggest that you read the entire prayer.  You will notice that a kneeling creature can pray with assertive power and humility at the same time.  This is an example that kneeling is a celebratory posture.  It is not a necessarily a posture of abject subjugation.  Check it out.

In the first part of Isaiah, when the prophet is foretelling the release from exile and the return to the Promised Land from Babylon, hear what he says in exultation,
        "3 Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, Say to those whose           hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you. (Isaiah, 35, 3-4)
These are knees made strong for dancing and rejoicing in the gift of freedom from exile given by God to His people.  These are knees that sustain the energetic child of God.  These are the knees that carry the righteous person back to the Land that was given to the people by God Himself.  These are not knees bent in penance or adoration.  These are knees that are ready to work and render great homage to God Himself.  These are the knees of the saved, of the newly freed who carry the message of the One True God to the Nations.

In Deutero Isaiah we hear God telling His chosen people what He expects of them and what they can expect of Him.  He reminds them of the first commandment and tells them that in their acceptance of Him as the ONLY God, they will find comfort and safety.  It is a celebration of life in God, our teaching Father reserved for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel).  I suggest that you spend some moments praying this passage so that you can feel the warm Grace of God fill your soul.  Celebrate life in His presence.  I am quite sure that as the meaning of the passage envelopes you, you will also celebrate the moment by kneeling before God.

       "22 Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other! 23 By myself I swear, uttering my just decree and my unalterable word: To me every knee shall bend; by me every tongue shall swear, 24 Saying, "Only in the LORD are just deeds and power. Before him in shame shall come all who vent their anger against him. 25 In the LORD shall be the vindication and the glory of all the descendants of Israel." (Isaiah, 45, 22 - 25)

Allow me to place one more Biblical quote before your eyes before I go off on my own.  This one from the Gospel of Mark.

"As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  (Mark 10; 17)
You remember all of this story.  This is the rich man who walked away from Jesus because he did not want to go, sell all his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor and follow Jesus.  This is a person of excellent character and of comfortable estate.  When he wants to have direction in his life, he thinks that he is going to indicate humility and openness by kneeling.  He knew that he had come to the right person.  His demeanor says that he believed in Jesus as the Great Messenger from God.  His demeanor says that he was celebrating the moment and knew that he had to bow before the power of the experience.  As it turns out, the exterior posture said one thing but the interior disposition was not strong enough to carry the day.

We are Catholics.  In the world of Christians, we are the kneelers.  We spend more time on our knees than other Christians.  I have tried to point out the different moments when the Bible shows us people on their knees.  If Solomon could kneel in public, anyone could.  We have similar moments in our liturgical lives.  We rarely see the Priest on his knees at that Altar.  It happens on Good Friday during the nine Great Orations, the original "Prayer of the Faithful."  We say one part standing and the second part kneeling, including the priest.  There are times when kneeling is called for and times when it is not.  In this day and age the Church has decided that the moment of Communion is not, and I agree with Her.  My final thought in this series is this.

John's gospel tells the story of the Jews voting with their feet.  (John, chapter 6) Jesus made the point that to have eternal life we have to eat His flesh and drink His blood.  At this, the Jews walked away and didn't listen to Him any more. When He was left standing there with his closest disciples and apostles He asked, "Are you going to leave too"  Peter, of course, Peter, answered by saying, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6, 68 - 69).  They not only stood there, they stayed by His side and followed Him.  That, dear reader is what we Catholics celebrate when we are at the moment of Communion.  It is the moment of union when we stand shoulder to shoulder with Christ and with each other, priests, prophets and kings one and all.  I enjoy voting with my feet in the presence of Christ, Jesus.  Like Peter I know that this is the beginning of Eternal Life. I know where I have come from and I know where I want to go.  I pray that this divine food will take me to the side of God for all Eternity, in His House.  Given what you have read  here, you should now know that it is not proper to cry at my funeral.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


To friends, indifferent strangers and enemies alike, I present the following reflection on one piece of totally erroneous "truth" making the rounds on the Internet.
When you receive something by email, or run across something on Google, use your brains and make common sense judgements about what you have received...even from relatives, friends, indifferent strangers and enemies.  
We forge ahead:

I quote you the opening sentences of an email I just received:

I believe that this is what America should do.
Does anybody know how Ishmael was conceived as per the Bible?  His mother pretended to Abraham that she was Sarah, an act of deceit at the outset.  And then Mohammed was begat on the succeeding generations from Ishmael.
I have met a few Muslims in my life. They don't believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  They believe that marrying multiple women is okay.  Their new law, the Sharia, is intolerant of other religions.  They believe that women are inferior to men.  They believe that killing Christians earn them Virgins in the afterlife.  Their way is the only correct belief.  And yet we are helping them in Iraq and Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle East countries, and yet they won't allow our troops to bring Bibles?  The answers are very obvious; those who are against the Bible and don't believe in Jesus Christ are lost and in the dark.  For the Bible preaches that no one comes to the Father but through Jesus Christ.  The Moslems and other non-Christian nations in the world (Japan, China, North Korea, Thailand, etc...) can't deny the existence of God because the Bible teaches that "For the truth about God is known to men instinctively."
  Click here to read the Biblical account of how Ishmael was born.  I will addrress the veracity of the last sentence below, towards the end.

I do not want to believe that I received this from a person whom I trust and respect.  She was a student in the mission school where I was the Director.  True, that was over 40 years ago.  I wonder what happened in between.

The answer to the first interrogatory sentence, according to this email, as highlighted above, is viciously erroneous.  Ishmael, the son of Hagar, the maid of Abram and Sarai, was not the result of his mother deceiving Abraham.  He was born of congress between Hagar, his mother, and Abram, the husband of Sarai.  This relationship was consummated in sexual contact on the suggestion of Sarai, who was barren and wanted Abram to have a descendant.  So the story goes, Sarai became bitter and mean towards Hagar and so Abram told Sarai to dismiss the maid and her son.  The two of them left.  There came a time during their flight from Sarah and Abraham (God changed their names to this) that they nearly died.  As Hagar was preparing to die, God intervened and blessed them.  He promised a rich and vast descendancy to Ishmael, just as he had promised Abraham.  Not only was there no deception on Hagar's part, she and her son received blessings and a promise of prosperity and great descendancy from God Himself.

I want to know who gave the author of the email the right to "BURN MY BIBLE?"

The mean spirit and narrow-minded tenor of the first two paragraphs is akin to burning the Bible, an act just as malicious as burning the Koran.  Twisting the stories of the Bible to the degree shown above is, in my opinion, blasphemous and sacrilegious.  Using a twisted version of a Bible story to feed hatred and prejudice aimed at a whole population is the worst kind of personal attack.
To single out the Muslims in this fashion shows a particularly deep dislike of a nation that exists because the head of the descendancy received a special blessing from God.  This is a nation mainly composed of the descendants of Abraham, just as we are.  They are different than we are.  The have different beliefs than we do, but they are children of God, just as we are.  
It is also true that they have a different world view than we do, but it is always better to negotiate rather than to condemn in hatred.  It is always better to bring the God of Love to the table with us, rather than to bring the sword of hatred and reviling.  To single out the Muslims because they do not believe that Jesus is the son of God, and is, indeed God, is to forget that there are many religious people in this world who believe in the word of the Bible but who do not believe that Jesus is the son of God.  The Jewish people do not believe that Jesus is the son of God.  There are many people in the world who don't believe in God, period.  To single out the Muslims for these reasons doesn't prove anything but that the writer has a personal problem with Islam.

Is that a reason why my Bible is being burnt here?

Sharia is called "their new law..."  It is not a new law.  It is the law of the Koran.  It is intolerant to non Muslims, but it is also extremely strict for Muslims.  Islam permits polygamy, but within bounds.  Muslims may not practice polygamy in countries where it is forbidden.  So they may have something to say about that, right?  They are great believers in theocracy, and we are not.  In a theocracy, many of our "freedoms" do not exist.  So our soldiers cannot carry their bibles into Muslim countries.  We do not allow their Koranic law in ours.

Is that a reason why the author of this article burnt my Bible?

More flames -- "The Moslems and other non-Christian nations in the world (Japan, China, North Korea, Thailand, etc...) can't deny the existence of God because the Bible teaches that 'For the truth about God is known to men instinctively'."
Nowhere in the Bible, King James Version or any other, is it written as is quoted above.  Nowhere.  What does appear in some writings is that the splendor of the world around us can lead us to the knowledge of the existence of God.  It is not said that the "truth about God is known instinctively."  It is taught by the Catholic Church that humans are endowed with a natural attraction to know the existence of God.  It is taught that knowing the existence of God and further and deeper truths about Him are rendered easier by outside help, like parental teaching, Bible reading, etc.
Furthermore, human beings can, and do, deny the existence of God all the time.  How can the writer of this email say that human beings cannot do that?  They do it every moment of every day, directly and indirectly, in words and in actions.  Retracing my steps, the author of the email includes "Moslems" in the list of people who can't deny the truth about God.  They don't deny the existence of God.  Seriously now, who do you think Allah is?  Is that the truth about God?  Who knows?  Does the author of this email know the truth about God?  Oh, perhaps Allah is a false God, and not the real thing?  Oh, before I forget, who might "Yahweh" be?  The Bible cannot be quoted as it has been in this email.

Stop burning my Bible.

It sends me through the roof when people wring falsehood out of sacred items.  I get perturbed when sacred objects are used to destroy good will and love among people.  The Bible is a Sacrament of Love, not a weapon of mass destruction.  If you are going to quote the Bible, do it correctly, word for word and in the proper context.  It is a sin to make the Bible say something that you want it to say, rather than to quote it accurately and in context so that what it is truly meant to say is apparent to the reader or the listener.
Do not burn my Bible,and do not cry at my funeral.